Andrew Chuter/TOULOUSE

THE TWO European bidders in the competition to join China and South Korea in developing a new 100-seat regional jet have reached an informal agreement to join forces should either be selected by the Asian partners to take around a 25% stake in their Air express AE100 project.

Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)) and Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) have pitched separate bids at the Asian pairing, having failed to reach a common position on an earlier joint bid to compete with proposals from Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

AI(R) chief executive Henri-Paul Puel says that DASA's insistence on dual assembly lines in Europe and Asia "...would have killed our chances" of winning.

Puel confirms that a "...gentleman's agreement has been reached" by the Europeans on collaboration, should either of their bids succeed. "Whoever is selected the other will follow. We cannot think of European industry, separated on such a programme," he said, speaking at a press conference to launch AI(R) - the new joint venture between Aerospatiale, Alenia and British Aerospace, which pools the ATR Jetstream and Avro RJ turboprop and regional-jet fleets in a unified marketing and support operation.

Contrary to earlier expectations, AI(R) says that the Aviation Industries of China and the Korean Commercial-aircraft Development Consortium will produce a shortlist of two contenders within the next two weeks, rather than name an outright winner. Final selection is not expected until the middle of 1996.

In anticipation of being one of the short listed companies - almost certainly alongside Boeing - the European consortium has formed Aero International Asia in Beijing to pursue the Air express programme. A team of senior managers and engineers will be based at the company's offices.

Puel says that, should Boeing win selection, the Europeans will respond with a new regional jet of their own, provided that it is viable. He says that DASA becoming part of the set-up was imperative. "I believe it is, eventually, a necessity if one believes in Europe," he says.

AI(R), which formally starts business on 1 January, says that it is immediately starting a study looking at market demands for a range of products to cater for between 60 and 100 passengers. Previous proposals to develop the high-speed ATR 72-500 and the bigger ATR 82 - either turboprop or turbofan powered - will both be swept up in the study.

Source: Flight International