AERO INTERNATIONAL (Regional) (AI(R)) says that development of a 58- to 85-seat regional-jet family is its "main goal", with a market study already under way and a launch pencilled in for the Paris air show in June 1997.

The plan is to work towards an in-service entry "at the turn of the century", says Henri-Paul Puel, outgoing president of the Aerospatiale/Alenia/British Aerospace joint venture. The programme would cost the partners an estimated $1.1 billion.

The baseline AI(R) 70 is a 70-seater, using the ATR 72 fuselage cross-section, a new, swept, wing and tail-mounted 62kN (14,000lb)-thrust-class turbofans. At a maximum take-off weight of 29,250kg, the aircraft would have a range of 1,850km (1,000nm) and a cruise speed of Mach 0.75. Airlines are also being offered stretched 84-seat and "shrunk" 58-seat variants. Target cost ranges from $15 million for the AI(R) 58 to $18 million for the AI(R) 84.

Puel says that AI(R) sees a market for 2,000 aircraft on the 60- to 90-seat sector over the next 20 years. The AI(R) 70 has been optimised for the US market, where many regional airlines are restricted to operating aircraft with 70 seats or fewer, while the AI(R) 84 is more likely to appeal to European operators and the AI(R) 58 to markets with capacity constraints.

Although the fuselage is based on that of the ATR 72, elimination of the heavy frames required to carry the turboprop's high-mounted wing will allow the internal cabin-diameter to be increased, AI(R) says. The aircraft will be 2t lighter than the Fokker 70, Puel says.

The joint venture wants a single-engine type to power all three variants, and is evaluating four candidates: the Allison AE3012, BMW Rolls-Royce BR700, General Electric CF34-8C and the proposed Snecma/Pratt & Whitney Canada SPW14. AI(R) favours the all-new SPW14, but says that a major element of the market survey will be to determine which engine potential customers prefer.

AI(R) began operations on 1 January as a joint marketing venture between ATR and British Aerospace. Puel says that manufacture of the regional jet will be split equally between the three partner companies, Aerospatiale, Alenia (ATR) and BAe. No decisions have been taken on workshare, or on where the aircraft will be assembled, he says.

If necessary, Puel says, AI(R) will develop a stretched, re-engined version of the ATR 72, powered by the uprated Pratt & Whitney PW150 turboprop, but this aircraft is not being promoted to airlines.

Source: Flight International