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N250 Turboprop Carrier

The N250 turboprop carrier was the pride of Indonesia. Coming exactly a week before the 50th anniversary of Indonesia's declaration of independence from the Dutch, the first flight of the N-250 turboprop brimmed with symbolism. It is the first commercial aircraft designed and made completely by Indonesian engineers and technicians. Various types of IPTN freight, passenger, and executive jet planes are being built. Twenty years after choosing aerospace as a bootstrap to a high tech manufacturing future, Indonesia has rolled out its new N250-100 turboprop. What began as a narrowly focused program to develop a robust short-field turboprop to help unite the undeveloped archipelago has grown into a much broader effort.

The plane's designer, state-owned IPTN Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (Indonesia), wanted to market the 64-68 seat aircraft worldwide and has plans for a $100 million U.S. assembly plant to be built in cooperation with American and European manufacturing and banking partners. The intent was to seize a share of the U.S. regional market. But IPTN's move came amid predictions of drastic industry consolidation in the next few years due to a lack of demand for such aircraft.

The airframe was fabricated from aircraft light alloys and titanium with a significant portion of nonstructural components of composite materials. The fuselage was derived from that of the CN-235, although it was wider and taller. The wing, tail, and engine nacelles were all-new designs. The wing included double-slotted fixed vane flaps and wing spoilers for STOL enhancement. Standard avionics equipment included the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 avionics system. This system featured five large CRT displays that provide primary flight, navigation, engine, and aircraft status information. A sixth display was optional. Dassault Aviation assisted IAe with CAD/CAM systems implementation. Fly-by-wire technology was used for the primary and secondary flight control systems. Lucas (since absorbed into Goodrich) and Liebherr were selected to provide the FBW control system in June 1992.

Subcontractors included Rolls-Royce for the propulsion system; Dowty for the six-blade propellers; Messier-Dowty for the landing gear; Goodrich for the Full Authority Digital Engine Control; APIC for the auxiliary power unit; Intertechnique for the EROS oxygen system; Flight Refuelling for the fuel management system; Hamilton Sundstrand for the environmental control system; Abex GmbH Aerohydraul for the hydraulic power generation system; and GKN Aerospace Transparency Systems for windshields, cabin windows, and the windshield heating control system.

Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN), as IAe was then called, launched the N-250 at the 38th Paris Air Show in 1989, following a market evaluation that began in 1987. That study resulted in a decision in 1989 to proceed with development of the N-50. The first metal for the initial prototype was cut in August 1992. First flight of the initial N-250 prototype was originally scheduled to take place in 1994. However, the prototype made its initial flight in August 1995.

Beginning in mid-1994, the Indonesian government diverted $185 million from the country's reforestation budget to the N-250 development program. IPTN had apparently found itself short of funds to continue the program. The funding diversion sparked protests by several environmental groups, which went to court to block the diversion.

The first flight of the initial prototype, a 50-seater, occurred in August 1995. At that time, then-IPTN chairman Bacharuddin Habibie announced that IPTN would now manufacture the N-250 in two versions: a 50-seat aircraft and the larger N-250-100 version. The decision to market the 50-seat aircraft was prompted by a desire to provide an entire family of aircraft, from the 30-40 passenger CN-235 to the proposed 130-passenger N2130 regional jet. The smaller N-250 version, which would carry 54 passengers, later became known as the N-250-50. A second N-250 prototype made its initial flight in December 1996. It was built in the stretched N-250-100 configuration.

The successful first flight for Indonesia's new N-250 commercial airplane led to an announcement of a plan for a mid-range jet aircraft to be finished in 2003 or 2004. Research and Technology Minister BJ Habibie said the N-250 has cost only $400 million so far of the $650 million budgeted, and that 192 firm orders left the program just 67 orders short of breaking even. Experts said the new, $2 billion plan was even more ambitious, entering a fiercely competitive arena. Habibie's son, a former Boeing engineer, was to head it up.

In March 1967, the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) had named General Soeharto acting President. In 1968, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) formally selected Soeharto to a full five-year term as President, and he was reelected to successive five-year terms in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998. In mid-1997, Indonesia suffered from the Asian financial and economic crisis, accompanied by the worst drought in 50 years. Amid widespread civil unrest, Soeharto resigned on May 21, 1998, three months after the MPR had selected him for a seventh term. Soeharto's hand-picked Vice President, B.J. Habibie, became Indonesia's third President. President Habibie reestablished International Monetary Fund (IMF) and donor community support for an economic stabilization program.

The 65-seat N250 turboprop aircraft and IPTN itself met abrupt ends in the midst of the Asian financial crisis. In January 1998, as part of a $43 billion bailout of the Indonesian economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ordered the Indonesian government to cease financing IPTN. This had a serious impact on the N-250 program. The N-250 program was shelved. IAe had hoped to find an investor (or investors) to contribute the $90 million needed to complete certification of the aircraft, and had discussions with several potential foreign investors over securing this funding. However no suitable investors committed to the program.

Indonesia's first elections in the post-Soeharto period were held for the national, provincial, and sub-provincial parliaments on June 7, 1999. The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) selected Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) as Indonesia's fourth President in November 1999 and replaced him with Megawati Soekarnoputri in July 2001.

In early 2004, the Indonesian government conducted a study on the possibility of reviving the N-250 program. The market for 60-75 passenger regional aircraft is crowded and includes turboprop aircraft such as the ATR 72 and the Bombardier Q400, as well as regional jets such as the Bombardier CRJ 700 and the Embraer 170.



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