French aircraft manufacturer LH Aviation has suspended work on a factory it was building in Morocco as a result of "significant disagreements" with its local business partner.
LH’s Moroccan partner is businessman Mohsin Karim Bennani, who is the president and principal shareholder of LH Aviation Maroc.
According to reports in Moroccan and French press, LH Aviation said that Bennani’s "months long absence" was an additional reason for suspending operations.
The plant, located in the northern Moroccan province of Nouaceur, was to have produced the LH-10 Ellipse light aircraft, which the company is marketing as the first aeroplane fully adapted to African conditions.
The Ellipse was to have been produced by LH Aviation Maroc, North Africa’s first indigenous aircraft manufacturer.Â The company is 51% owned by LH and 49% owned by Mr Bennani, who is understood to have invested $10m in the project.
Work on the factory began last year, and it was to have begun producing the Ellipse this year, for sale to the African and Middle Eastern markets.
When the plant is fully operational it will produce 80 aircraft a year. LH said it was hopeful that work on the factory would resume once its differences with Mr Bennani had been settled.
The aircraft’s fuselage is made from lightweight composites and it is powered by a 100hp engine with the propeller at the rear of the plane. A military version is also being produced as an alternative to drones; the cost of this plane is $1.4m.
Presently, the Ellipse is operated by the Benin coastguard, which bought three aircraft. It is also being flown by United Arab Emirate company Jet Energy, which bought 10 for offshore surveillance work.
The government of Morocco has made the development of an aerospace industry one of the priorities of its National Plan for Industrial Development, announced in 2009. The decision is thought to reflect the enthusiasm of Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, for aviation.
Photograph: The Ellipse on display at the Farnborough Airshow (Wikimedia Commons)