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'Under the Radar' - Australian Financial Review 18-19/2/17 -p16.

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Some of you may have missed this full page article on the progress of Brumby Aircraft in building in China. File is too large for me to upload to recavn.


Nothing in the article that hasn't been publicly said before, but there isn't yet a firm date for completion of the 1st model 610 for the Aussie market.


The emphasis on the 'pilot training' market might mean that these aircraft will be absolute lookalikes bound for the big flight schools. To make models attractive to Aussie pilots, I'd suggest that customising will be necessary. The model bound for an 'airline pilot' training school will be somewhat different to an aircraft for an Aussie RAAus or GA school, eg, with a more advanced IFR capable EFIS and avionics suite. Existing Aussie flight schools in Class G are not going to require much higher end stuff for many years to come.


I wonder if my Brumby will become an 'A' model, (for 100% Aussie built) - and the next production run carry the 'C' designator? <joke!>


happy days,



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How a flying passion turned an Aussie plane enthusiast into the hope of China





Philip (left) and Paul Goard, joint managing directors of Brumby Aviation at their new factory in Fuping, China. "It's a bit flasher than our tin shed in Cowra," says Paul. Angus Grigg





by Angus Grigg


When Philip Goard retired to the NSW country town of Cowra in 2001, his plan was to tinker with planes and do some flying.


Nearly 16 years later he's doing just that, except he's swapped a tin shed in rural Australia for a $20 million factory with 60 staff in the southern Chinese province of Fuzhou.


While not the tree change Goard had envisaged, the move will enable his passion project – a single-engine aircraft he designed and built – to go into mass production and in doing so fire up China's long-held ambition to develop its own aviation industry. "I never did get to retire," says Goard, who will soon turn 69.


The journey of Goard and his son Paul from Cowra to the industrial city of Fuping is one of the more unlikely partnerships in aviation history.



Wang Jingyi (left) on the factory floor at Fujian Brumby speaking with Philip and Paul Goard. Angus Grigg


In 2014, a controlling stake in the Goards' family company, Brumby Air, was purchased by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a $170 billion state-owned giant making everything from fighter jets to cruise missiles which in recent years has moved into commercial aviation.


In buying a stake in Brumby, AVIC's goal is to replicate some of its own military success in the civilian space by manufacturing a truly Chinese plane, rather than one assembled in China using foreign parts.


"We are pretty much the first one in China making a plane from scratch," says Wang Jingyi, a manager at the newly formed Fujian Brumby Aviation Co, who acted as tour guide during the Weekend Financial Review's visit in early February. "We are the pioneers."


Challenging process


A key step in that pioneering journey began last Thursday, when the Brumby 610 Light Sport Aircraft officially went into production at Fuping.



The Goards are among a new breed of smaller, high-tech Australian operators who have found niche opportunities in China, where many of the big multi-nationals have found the going tough. Angus Grigg


Goard senior and junior were on the factory floor, with two of their Australian technicians, to begin what everyone knows will be a challenging process.


The language barrier, cultural differences, navigating the AVIC bureaucracy and training a workforce which has never built an aircraft before are just some of the obstacles faced by the joint venture.


Lack of ambition won't be a problem. Like most of China's government-ordained national champions, AVIC is thinking big.


Over dinner at a hotel near their factory, the Goards spoke of producing 15 aircraft by Christmas this year and increasing the run-rate to 100 each year by 2019.



"It's a bit flasher than our tin shed in Cowra," says Goard junior casting his eye over millions of dollars in German machinery on the factory floor. "It's pretty amazing really." Angus Grigg


But the very next morning their Chinese partner was forecasting far larger numbers.


"We will eventually make 400 aircraft a year, over two production lines," says Wang.


"We will produce aeroplanes like sausages."


Benefit of scale



The language barrier, cultural differences, navigating the AVIC bureaucracy and training a workforce which has never built an aircraft before are just some of the obstacles faced by the joint venture. Angus Grigg


The Fuzhou Daily, a local Communist Party newspaper, went even further, saying in April last year the factory would eventually produce 500 planes a year and generate annual revenue of $75 million.


Wherever this figure settles, the move will see the Goards producing more aircraft during a single week in China than they did in a year at home in Cowra.


This is the benefit of China – scale.


"We could just not make them quick enough in Australia," says Goard junior.



"We will eventually make 400 aircraft a year, over two production lines," says the manager Wang Jingyi. Angus Grigg


The challenge for the Goards and their local partner is bridging this divide between reality and ambition, while keeping costs down and the quality up.


In the days before production was due to start, the usual frustrations were on display. Some of the key materials had not been ordered, machines were not calibrated correctly and previously agreed tasks were yet to be completed.


"They needed to pull their finger out," says Goard junior.


His father is more diplomatic saying: "It will all happen but we want it to happen more quickly.


"These small problems are to be expected."


'Flasher than our tin shed'


Amid the stress and activity before production starting, both father and son did allow themselves a small moment to survey the factory.


"It's a bit flasher than our tin shed in Cowra," says Goard junior, casting his eye over millions of dollars in German machinery on the factory floor. "It's pretty amazing really."



Technician Lu Yangchun works on a machine at Brumby Aviation's new factory in Fuping. Angus Grigg


For both Goards the journey from Cowra to Fuping started at Sydney's Bankstown Airport in 1996.


As a sideline to his aviation maintenance business, Goard senior had designed a single-engine aircraft – primarily for use as a trainer – but didn't put the plane into production because the cost of having it certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) was prohibitive.


That changed in 2005 when Australia, following a lead from the US, allowed self-certification for the so-called "light sport" category.


This new classification couldn't be used to transport paying passengers, but quickly found a big market among flying schools, farmers and weekend enthusiasts.


"It is now the fastest-growing aircraft category in the world," says Goard senior.


A year after CASA changed to self-certification, Gourd senior built the first Brumby 600 and his plans to just "potter around" were ruined.


"We took it [the aircraft] to an air show and got 10 orders," he says. "Then we had to get set up to produce it."


In the years after, the Brumby developed a strong following in Australia. Apart from it's competitive price – $135,000 – it's cheap to run, has high visibility through its wide canopy, a fixed undercarriage well suited to Australian conditions and has a range of nearly 1000km.


Went looking for a partner


One of the aircraft's biggest supporters is the federal member for Mallee, Andrew Broad, a pilot who owned a Brumby until 2012.


"I have flown the Brumby half way across Australia and in my opinion it is the best light sport aircraft you can buy."


But while the endorsements rolled in, the Goards had neither the capital nor production facilities to meet demand and so went looking for a partner in China.


Their Chinese story is typical of many Australian companies that have come to the mainland looking for both cheaper production and capital.


In the early days of seeking out a partner they signed, then backed out, of a memorandum of understanding with a drone manufacturer. They also went close to getting capital from a mining company in Shandong Province and even an elevator maker in Shanghai, before eventually teaming up with AVIC.


But more than this the Goards are among a new breed of smaller, high-tech Australian operators who have found niche opportunities in China, where many of the big multi-nationals have found the going tough.


The difference is that these smaller players have often discovered a way to insert themselves into Beijing's bigger strategic and economic goals, which at present are focused on high-end manufacturing and the development of a more skilled workforce.


Brumby ticks both these boxes, along with meeting Beijing's desire to develop its own civil aviation industry.


"We were told that China was 100 years behind the US in commercial aviation and wants to catch up in 20 years," says Goard junior.


Controlling stake


That need to catch up saw AVIC buy a controlling stake in Brumby in August 2014, leaving the Goards with a significant minority shareholding in the new company – the percentage has not been disclosed, although they have two of the five board seats.


The father and son team received an upfront payment, will take a royalty on every aircraft and have retained distribution rights for Australia and New Zealand.


"The Brumby story is a great Australian success story," says Stephen Cartwright, chief executive of the NSW Business Chamber.


Over the longer term the shareholding in the newly formed Fujian Brumby Aviation Co could be highly valuable, but in the next few years the Goards will make their money from royalties and being the local distributor.


The first 70 planes will be sent to Australia where they will be assembled and fitted out with avionics and other accessories.


"We will buy them at wholesale prices, hot them up a bit, and sell at retail prices in Australia," he says.


This is where the narrative from the so-called "offshoring" of manufacturing is a little more complex than just the moving of jobs to China.


Huge numbers


While the Goards were forced to cut back their production operations in Cowra, which employed 15 people at the peak, they could end up employing more staff over the longer term as an operation to assemble, fit out and service aircraft.


Then there's the training.


After the first batch of 70 planes are sent to Australia, the joint venture will focus on selling the Brumby in China, the US and Europe for use in pilot training.


But China will remain a focus and here the numbers are, as always, huge.


The Civil Aviation Flight University of China estimated last November the country needs to train 6000 pilots every year for at least the next decade to meet the demand from commercial airlines.


But the university said only half these pilots could be trained in China given the restricted airspace, which is controlled by the military, which brings up the opportunity to train the pilots in Australia.


"They [AVIC] have asked us to set up a flight school at Cowra," says Goard junior, which could mean more regional jobs and economic benefits for Cowra.


But AVIC's ambitions don't stop there.


Along with pumping out as many as 400 Brumby aircraft a year in two models (high and low wing), AVIC are pushing Goard senior to begin designing a larger "air cruiser".


For Australian aviation buffs this could be a case of back to the future.


The idea is for Goard senior to redesign the legendary Victa Air Cruiser, a four seater aircraft with a production run of one, built in 1966.


A modified version of that plane, originally made by the lawnmower company of the same name, is still used in the Australian Air Force. However what's known as the "type certificate" or the CASA approved design, is owned by the Goards.


Saving millions


By redesigning and modernising the bigger scale aircraft, rather than starting from scratch, they will save millions of dollars in CASA approvals and crunch the time required to get it into production.


"They [AVIC] are very keen on this ... it's in all their marketing material and brochures," says Goard junior.


If the option to develop the air cruiser was taken up by AVIC or if Australian investors backed the project, it would mean more jobs in Cowra. The idea is for the town to host design and early production of the aircraft.


But as the first fuselage and wings of the Brumby 610 Light Sport Aircraft roll off the production line in Fuping the father and son team are focused on the present.


"The air cruiser and flight school are all in the future ... at the moment we just need to focus on getting the first production runs right," says Goard junior.


"That's the way in China, there are always so many opportunities, but you need to focus on getting one thing right first then you can think about the others."


Read more: Aussie enthusiast retires to China – and builds planes in $20 million factory with 60 staff


Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook



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So much for the Australian industry.


Don't think I want one, they say they will be like sausages.


Seriously though it is good to see an Aussie design go ahead.


Who was the aeronautical engineer who did the design work? I thought it was a bloke from Brisbane who's name escapes me at the moment.



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DSC00476.JPG.37bc6fd77c990b667f74a5031dd0dc6f.JPG Thanks for posting the links and article Dipacro and FT. My digital skills are clearly limited.


Yes, it is a case of basic manufacturing jobs going offshore: but the upside is that the Australian models will be fitted out in Cowra, and then there is the future airline training school which could well be located in Cowra. Actually a good location for it.


My model 610 is now up to 350 hrs and is proving a really good trainer. No problems at all. Students really like it.


happy days,



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