The country demonstrated these products of its infant aviation industry at the recent African Aerospace and Defence 2000 exhibition at Waterkloof Air Force Base, near Pretoria, marking the first time the Algerian-manufactured aircraft had been demonstrated outside their home country. “We started manufacturing the aircraft in 1993, although we initiated the project in 1987,” reports Entreprise de Construction Aeronautique (ECA) director-general Redouane Touhami.
“They are built under licence from the Czech Republic, but are manufactured completely in Algeria,” he explains.
The aircraft were designed by the Zlin company, world-renowned for its light and aerobatic aircraft designs, and are marketed by the Czechs outside Africa as the Zlin 43 and Zlin 142.
“We have the rights for the whole of Africa,” Touhami points out.
“South Africa is interested in buying these aircraft, as are a number of Arab countries,” he adds.
The Firnas 142 is a two-seater and the Safir 43 a four-seater. To date, ECA has built some 60 of the aircraft, for use by the Algerian Air Force, government departments and parastatal corporations in a variety of roles.
These include basic training, aerobatic training, aerial surveying of powerlines and pipelines, as well as normal general aviation and utility duties, including banner and glider towing.
The Safir 43 is also used as a medical-evacuation aircraft.
“We are also considering manufacturing the Zlin 137T agricultural spraying and water-bombing aircraft, and we are thinking of developing a larger aircraft, with nine seats,” reports Touhami.
It is likely that ECA-manufactured Z137Ts would be bought by the country’s agriculture ministry.
The Firnas 142 is powered by a supercharged six-cylinder in-line piston engine with a maximum take-off power rating of 154 kW, and a cruising rating – with supercharger off – of 103 kW, driving a two-bladed propeller.
The aircraft has a top speed of 333 km/h, a cruising speed of 215 km/h, endurance of more than six hours and a maximum range of 1 050 km.
The maximum ceiling is 5 000 m.
The four-seat Safir 43 has the same powerplant and propellor as the two-seat Firnas 142 and, although the range and endurance of the two types are similar, the Safir 43, is unsurprisingly the slower of the two, with a maximum speed of 307 km/h and a cruising speed of 212 km/h.
Both aircraft have fixed tricycle landing gear.
The ECA, located near Oran, at the western end of the Algerian coast, was created specifically to develop an Algerian aircraft-manufacturing industry.