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December 2005 edition

Aussie plane maker launches new light aircraft project

By Daniel Cook

Australia is home to an estimated 8,700 light aircraft. As well as agriculture, they are routinely called into action to fight the country’s lethal bush fires. The rich use them to commute from their rural properties to the coastal cities. Many aircraft and aircraft parts are imported into the country. But Lightwing, a small company based in Ballina, New South Wales, is bucking the trend. It is currently building a new aircraft at a fraction of the cost of other similar aeroplanes. Airframer’s Daniel Cook spoke to its chief executive Howie Hughes to find out how.

If avoiding unnecessary fuss is a characteristic of the people of Australia, then manufacturer LightWing, with its new Speed aircraft is a very Australian company.

The first Speed is currently being built at the company’s Ballina base just two years after the project began, and at a cost of only A$400,000 (less than US$300,000), achieved, according to the group’s ceo Howie Hughes, through straightforward design and manufacturing.

“That’s the point, that’s the trick,” he says. “Nothing complex is required, other than skilled staff and a good training scheme to reach new staff.”

LightWing is sticking with methods honed and materials proven over its twenty-year history, making only selective use both of composites and computer aided design and manufacturing - an unusual step in today’s composites-driven market.

“We had basic CAD drawings bu....

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