Dominion Aircraft Skytrader 800
Skytrader Corporation UV-23A Scout
The Skytrader was a conventional high-wing, strut-braced monoplane with fixed tricycle undercarriage designed in Renton, Washington, by laid-off Boeing engineers in 1972. The design was optimised for easy freight handling and featured a fuselage of rectangular cross-section with large loading doors to the side and a loading ramp at the rear. The aircraft's tail unit was angled upwards from the rear fuselage to facilitate loading operations beneath it, and the main undercarriage was fitted in sponsons on the fuselage sides so as not to intrude into the internal cargo volume. Passenger, freight, executive transport, and water-bomber versions were projected.
Work on the aircraft commenced in 1972 and the prototype (N800ST) flew on 21 April 1975. Marketing the aircraft proved difficult, however, and despite a flurry of initial interest, by 1977, only two firm orders are known to have been placed. Two years later, the bank that had been financing the project collapsed and Dominion went bankrupt. The prototype and the program were purchased the following year by Grant MacCoon, and over the next few years were bought and sold by a number of entities, finally becoming the property of a new firm, Skytrader Corporation, in 1984. Skytrader Corporation was founded in 1984 to develop the Skytrader 800 but with some changes.
Skytrader proposed a revised version of the original design as the Skytrader ST1700 or Conestoga. Originally powered by IO-720s, it was planned to fit Thunder TE495-TC700 liquid-cooled V-8s, but it was then planned with Turbomeca Astazou turboprops. This had a stretched cabin, T-tail, redesigned nose, wings, and landing gear, and was to be turboprop powered. A scaled-down version was to be offered as the ST1400 Commuterliner. Apart from passenger and freight versions, dedicated military versions were also proposed as the Evader, carrying 26 troops, or the smaller Scout. This would have been able to carry 12-15 troops and provision was made for armament in the form of 2.75 in air-to-ground rockets. In 1987, Skytrader announced a deal with Mitsui that would provide $20.5 million to fund FAA certification of the ST1700, and initial production of the Scout.
The Mitsui money never appeared, and the following year, Skytrader made co-production deals with the government of the Philippines and Samsung, but these did not eventuate either. The final chapter in the Skytrader's development was the entry of the Scout in a US Army competition for an intelligence gathering plane. During the late 1980s, the U.S. Southern Command became interested in acquiring a reconnaissance plane which would do well in the rugged terrain and with the clandestine operations that the command was executing at the time. A contest, named Grizzly Hunter, was opened for interested contractors to enter candidate airplanes for consideration.
The Scout was entered as a joint project between Skytrader and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter, and was selected as the winning design, receiving the designation UV-23. Revisions to the original Scout design included blown wings and new propellers and gearboxes to significantly reduce the aircraft's IR and noise signatures. The Skytrader 800 prototype was re-engined at this point, and flew with Turbomeca Astazou XIV turboprops. Before any production of the UV-23 could be undertaken, however, Grizzly Hunter was cancelled and replaced by a different requirement which was won by the RC-7. With the Army order falling through, Skytrader declared bankruptcy in April 1989 with intentions on continuing operations and was liquidated in August 1989.
As of 2007, the prototype lay derelict, with engines stripped, at Washington County Regional Airport, in Hagerstown, Maryland.