South Korea has exported its first passenger plane to the United State, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy of South Korea said Friday.
A four-seat prop-driven light plane, named Firefly, was sent to U.S.-based Proxy Aviation on Tuesday, the ministry said.
The delivery highlights the competitiveness and technological edge of South Korea's plane manufacturing prowess vis-a-vis foreign rivals, said Lee Jae-hoon, a deputy minister in charge of industrial policy.
The plane, priced at 290,000 U.S. dollars, was designed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) with state research funds.
According to Lee, the Shinyoung Heavy Industries Co., a local manufacturer of the plane, and Proxy Aviation are discussing orders for 60 planes in the next two years.
KARI launched the project of the Firefly in 1997 at a cost of 3 billion won (3.19 million U.S. dollars). The Firefly's prototype had its maiden flight in September 2001. A further 4.2 billion won spent starting from 2002 on research and development of the plane's composite materials, landing gear assembly and other minor improvements.
The Firefly, a canard wing, pusher-type aircraft with a propeller in back and two vertical stabilizers, can land in 25- knot crosswinds, far higher than the 18-knot safety margin for other planes this size.
The firefly, 6.6 meters long and 10.4 meters wide from wing tip to wing tip, has a cruising speed of 300 km an hour, a range of 1, 850 km and has reached an altitude of 6,100 meters during an experimental flight in the United States. A maximum takeoff weight of 1,540 kg has been attained, and the plane can take off in 430 meters, according to local media.
KARI and the Commerce Ministry said the plane has drawn interest from several private aircraft companies in the United States and civil and military operators in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Malaysia and Brunei.