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PERFORMANCE AND SAFETY
From public transport to microlight aircraft. It must have taken courage to buy Fly Synthesis , a firm that in 2000 was failing and about to close down. But the family of Sonia Felice, who is the current president of the company based in Mortegliano, province of Udine, decided to take up the challenge.
We asked the firm’s current number one what prompted her to completely change business activity and try her hand with microlight aircraft.
It was really important to look at the potential: Fly Synthesis, which was founded by a group of devotees, came to my family after a series of owners, none of which had managed to take the company to the next level. When we came in, the turnover was equivalent to 100,000 Euros, and the company produced five or six aircraft a year. Today we can produce up to 150 aircraft, between “ready to fly” and “ready to assemble” versions, and we have a turnover of two or three million Euros, 80% of which comes from the foreign market.
It can’t be easy to compete on world markets in the niche of microlight aircraft. What characterises your products?
Different to most companies that produce microlights, Fly Synthesis has a wide product range. Our competitors usually propose a single model, in several versions. We, on the other hand, offer three different types of aircraft. And in April 2009 we intend to bring out a new “high wing” model.
What will be the characteristics of the aircraft you will be bringing out?
We have done a lot of work on safety: one of the characteristics of the new model, which will be called “Syncro”, is the anti-explosive fuel tank, an automatic fire extinguisher for possible onboard fires, and a ballistic parachute which can save the aircraft and its passengers in case of emergency. I can add that we are also developing other onboard safety systems.
Even if these aircraft are small, they are just as safe for pilots as full size planes.
Of course. Safety is a fundamental aspect, for several reasons. Firstly, in order to obtain certifications from the aeronautical authorities that regulate our foreign export markets, we have to respect certain standards. While in Italy microlights are mainly used for sport, abroad it is a different story, and they are used for professional uses – therefore the certification processes are much stricter. As in America, for example, or Australia.
Doesn’t an excess of safety accessories and instruments risk affecting the performance of microlights?
Our aircraft are nonetheless capable of reaching high speeds: the top of the range model reaches over 250km/h, while the average is of about 190-200km/h. The only way to combine safety and high performance is to increase our level of know-how by using highly evolved materials. We only use noble fibres such as carbon fibre or Kevlar, which are extremely light but up to six times stronger than steel.
Is your research, including materials research, carried out inhouse or do you make use of external centres?
We have our own Research and Development laboratory and a technical office: both develop new material technologies, carry out aerodynamic studies, develop safety devices and design in order to make our aircraft as attractive and, I repeat, safe as possible.
I can see you like to insist about safety…
Of course: it’s our trademark. None of our aircraft has ever had a structural fault.
There couldn’t be any better business card to enable you to sell on global markets. But where in particular is your reliability most appreciated?
Our main markets are Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel. Europe is a different market: while in the large countries in the southern hemisphere mentioned above airplanes are seen as an instrument for work, or are used for frequent journeys, especially in large mining properties, in the Old Continent they are mainly used by amateurs. And there are never enough optionals for amateurs, while for an Australian, for example, an airplane must absolutely have large wheels, able to land anywhere. But the inside of the plane can be simple, essential. In other words, in our sector use makes the difference.