The History of the Airvan 8
The Airvan 8 was introduced to the world as the Gippsland Aeronautics GA-8 Airvan in December 2000. The utility aircraft, based on the strong and reliable GA-200 Fat Man crop sprayer first appeared on the drawing boards of George Morgan and Peter Furlong in 1994. It retains the strengths designed into its agricultural brother and is engineered to fit into the small gap between the 6-seat pistons and the 10-seat turbines, the 8-seat Airvan has similar running costs compared to its 6-seat competitors with the added advantage of two extra paying seats. The aircraft achieved certifications by the US FAA and Transport Canada in 2003 and by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2005. Mahindra Aerospace acquired a majority shareholding in GippsAero in 2010 and the aircraft name was changed from the GA-8 Airvan to the Airvan 8.
True to it’s agricultural roots, the primary strength of the Airvan 8’s fuselage is designed into the floor which then forms an extremely strong cube-like structure by boxing the wing-spars with the floor. This design, coupled with the wing-struts, high tail surfaces and over-engineered air-free undercarriage allows the aircraft to fly into-and-out of the most remote places on the planet while being able to absorb maximum amounts of punishment. The fuel system has been simplified to consist of two automatically leveling wing tanks draining by way of gravity into a baffled sump tank below the co-pilots’ seat. With one on-off fuel valve, the need to change fuel tanks in flight is completely eliminated. All flight control cables run aft of the main spar, the ability to fly the aircraft with the trim set to maximum in either direction, four-point crew harnesses, three-point passenger seatbelts and G-force absorbing, crush-able structures supporting the seats make up the full compliment of FAR23 compliance. Old-school Johnson bar type flaps allow the pilot to gain or dump lift on command, further enhancing the ability and versatility when flying low or slow. The overhead switch panel, apart from having a double electrical bus and massive redundancies, adds to the cool factor – It’s in every pilot’s DNA to want to flip overhead switches. This machine is the aeronautical equivalent of a Land Cruiser pickup truck – the never-die truck one always sees on TV, riddled with bullet holes and bristling with machine guns, driving along in the places most sane people fear to tread. This is why the Airvan 8 has such a large following in Sub-Saharan Africa – it’s the type of aircraft you could rely on in both the darkest and brightest of times.
The Airvan capitol of the world is Maun, on the Okavango Delta, Botswana. There are over 30 of these aircraft operating daily to ferry passengers from the international airport to the extremely remote bush camps on the Delta which, in many instances, are accessible only by air. The Airvan 8s in Maun often average 1000 hours per year, with some serial numbers now passing 10-and-11 thousand flight hours in service.
The bubble windows allow for very good downward sight lines, making the aircraft suitable for a sightseeing or game viewing mission profile while retaining the ability to carry the passenger seats stowed in the aft baggage compartment, thus enabling a switch from passenger to cargo mission profiles and vice-versa depending on individual leg requirements. These missions are the most typical of the Airvan 8 but there are also provisions for ISR and onboard camera packages and a two-bed medical evacuation or air ambulance package. The Civil Air Patrol operates multiple Airvan 8s equipped with the ISR package on a daily basis.
The Airvan 8 is truly the most versatile aircraft in its price range. This versatility, coupled with the easy flying and landing characteristics and the ability to land on short and unprepared airstrips makes it a global favourite.
- Crew: 1
- Capacity: 7 passengers
- Length: 8.95 m (29 ft 4 in)
- Wingspan: 12.28 m (40 ft 3 in)
- Height: 3.89 m (12 ft 9 in)
- Wing area: 19.32 m2 (208.0 sq ft)
- Aspect ratio: 7.9:1
- Empty weight: 997 kg (2,198 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 1,814 kg (3,999 lb)
- Total Fuel capacity: 340 L (74.8 Imp Gallons)
- Usable Fuel: 332 L (73,03 Imp Gallons)
- Powerplant: 1 × Textron Lycoming IO-540-K1A5, 223 kW (300 hp) or Textron Lycoming Turbocharged TIO-540-AH1A, 238 kW (320 hp).
- Propellers: 2-Bladed Hartzell F8475R constant speed propeller or 3-Bladed Hartzell F8068 constant speed propeller.
- Maximum speed: 241 km/h (150 mph; 130 kn) at 1,525 m (5,000 ft)
- Cruise speed: 222 km/h (138 mph; 120 kn) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
- Stall speed: 97 km/h (60 mph; 52 kn) (flaps down)
- Range: 1,352 km (840 mi; 730 nmi)
- Endurance: 6 hr
- Service ceiling: 6,100 m (20,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 4.00 m/s (788 ft/min)