ROME — Giuseppe Giordo, the new CEO of Czech firm Aero Vodochody, will present the company's new L-39 Next Generation trainer at the Farnborough International Airshow this week as he seeks to build on the firm's long history of trainer sales.
The twist is that the last time the Italian manager presented a new trainer at an air show — Paris in 2013 — he was the head of Italian firm Alenia Aeronautica, and the plane was the M-345.
Giordo, the longtime head of Alenia, was released in March 2015 during a massive management downsizing by Mauro Moretti, the CEO of parent company Finmeccanica, which saw a series of veterans jump ship to rivals.
In May, Giordo proved no exception, taking over at Aero Vodochody. He is now looking to make his mark with a new trainer that will compete with the Alenia aircraft he helped develop.
"The market will see which one is the best," he said on the eve of Farnborough.
Aero Vodochody will look to market its new L-39NG trainer/light fighter to the impressive list of clients who bought its predecessor, the L-39, of which 3,000 were produced and 700 are still flying.
"Having 60 existing users is a real advantage," he said.
With a new Williams engine, new avionics, a new digital cockpit and a deal with state-owned Czech firm LOM Praha for simulators, the new aircraft will be ready for service in 2018, four years after development began, Giordo said.
"It will be the only second-level training aircraft that can become a fighter at the flick of a switch," he said. "We see a potential market of 5,000 planes in 15 years and believe we can sell 250 to 300."
The Czech firm, which turns over €300 million (US $332 million) and employs 2,000, is also marketing its light fighter, the L-159, which has been sold to the Czech Air Force and is used as an aggressor aircraft by US firm Draken International.
Giordo said five aircraft had also been delivered to Iraq, where they have been involved in operations, and another five would be delivered by the end of the year.
"We are offering something lighter and cheaper to countries that do not want to buy a fourth- or fifth-generation fighter," he said.
Since his arrival in the Czech Republic, Giordo has been appointed head of the Czech aviation industry association.
The man who sold the M-346 and C-27J while at Alenia said he was bringing international experience to Aero Vodochody, which is owned by private investment group Penta.
"The head of engineering is British, we have Brazilians from Embraer and the COO is German, combined with very competent Czech managers," he said.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.