Unbeknownst to many aircraft enthusiasts, the study of aeronautics and the production of aircraft and aircraft parts in Mexico are not new. The Mexican aeronautic industry did not start when Bombardier, Airbus or their suppliers set shop in the country, but dates back over 100 years. The first flight in Mexico and Latin America was carried out by Alberto Braniff in 1909 and the National Aeronautic Construction Workshops (TNCA) – the first Mexican aircraft manufacturer — was founded in 1915.
The 1910s and 1920s are considered the golden age of Mexican aeronautics. Not only was the first Mexican airline – Compañía Mexicana de Aviación — created during this period (in 1921), but there also were several companies that manufactured airplanes in a variety of configurations including sesquiplanes, biplanes, twin engine aircraft and monoplanes. However, continuous political turmoil related with the Mexican revolution and a damaged economy prevented the industry from permanently taking off.
It would take almost a century for “Made in Mexico” aircraft to reclaim the country’s skies. Aside from military aircraft development projects and the manufacture of aircraft components in Mexico’s aerospace hubs, planemaking in Mexico is making a comeback thanks to companies such as Oaxaca Aerospace and Horizontec and their prototype aircraft.
Pegasus 1 (AKA PE-210A) is the first end-to-end Mexican-made aircraft to sail the skies since the era of the biplanes. The project was started in 2011 by Oaxaca Aerospace, a 100-percent Mexican company focused on developing technology for the aeronautic industry. Two years later, Pegasus 1 began operational testing and the airplane was formally introduced during FAMEX 2015.
PE-210A is a prototype designed for testing. Thus, all necessary improvements will be incorporated into Oaxaca Aerospace’s second prototype: P-400T. Both P-400T and PE-210A are fixed-wing, two-seater aircraft with a canard configuration where the horizontal stabilizer is placed in front of the wings. But while PE-210A is equipped with a 210 HP Lycoming AEIO-390 piston engine, P-400T’s powerplant is a 400 HP twin-turbocharged engine that uses jet fuel and features a backup turbine for emergencies and fast take offs. This engine enables P-400T to reach a top speed of 550km/h and an altitude of 7.3km. After being presented in FAMEX 2017, P-400T is planned to start its test protocol in 1Q18.
Oaxaca Aerospace’s aircraft were created with military uses in mind, so P-400T can carry out air support, aerial reconnaissance, light attack, attack coordination, maritime patrolling, aerial interception, transportation and advanced pilot training missions, but it can also be used for commercial purposes. One of its main advantages over similar aircraft is fuel-efficiency and a comparatively low cost of about US$2.5 million. Oaxaca Aerospace expects to produce at least 12 aircraft by 2019 and up to 100 by 2028.
Horizontec – Halcón H1 and H2
A recreational, experimental and sports airplane, Halcón H1 is the first prototype that Queretaro-based Horizontec has produced in cooperation with CENTA. Halcón H1 is a two-seater, single-engine aircraft made of fiberglass, epoxy resin and lightwood. The 100-horsepower engine of H1 can deliver a cruise speed of 250km/h, a top speed of 320km/h an aeronautic ceiling of 4.5km. Its autonomy amounts to eight hours due to a fuel consumption of 10L per hour.
The Halcón H1 project started its design and construction phase in 2013 and in September 2017 it made its first flight from Queretaro Intercontinental Airport (AIQ). These efforts by Horizontec were supported by the Ministry of Economy and CONACYT.
H1 is the stepping stone for Horizontec to produce H2, a light sports aircraft (LSA) whose price will range between US$120,000-200,000. The company looks forward to producing up to 40 H2 units a year from its Queretaro assembly plant and is already working closely with CENTA to this end.
Mexico has a long road ahead before its aircraft manufacturers can compete with the likes of Bombardier, Boeing, Airbus or Embraer. But a growing aviation industry together with close collaboration between academic institutions, aerospace companies and local governments will be instrumental to boost the country’s manufacturing capabilities.
How was 2017 for the top planemakers? Check out a balance of their annual orders and deliveries here! Don’t forget to follow Mexico Aviation & Aerospace Review at @mxaerospace to stay tuned on the latest industry news!