Aero International (Regional) (AI(R))has formally launched the search for risk-sharing partners to join the $1 billion development of the proposed new AI(R)Jet family of 58- and 68-seat regional jets.

Aerostructures companies from Asia, Europe and North America were invited to a programme briefing at Toulouse on 22 January, outlining various options for sub- contracting and risk-sharing partnerships. AI(R)says that it now plans to put out requests for information on work packages, with the aim of receiving bids by the end of February.

The South Korean aerospace industry, having failed to secure deals on the Chinese 100-seat regional jet, or a Fokker rescue, is understood to have held discussions with AI(R), while Saab and CASA are also being courted. In December AI(R)shortlisted the General Electric CF34-8Cand the Snecma/Pratt &Whitney SPW14 engines, with the winner, to be announced "in the spring", due to be included in the project as a risk-sharer. Sources suggest that up to half of the project could eventually be put in the hands of new risk-sharing partners.

The programme will also see the existing AI(R)partners - Aerospatiale, Alenia and British Aerospace - move to the next stage of their year-old marketing joint venture with pooling of design and manufacturing. AI(R)suggests that this could be an early prototype for the Airbus restructuring.

It appears almost certain that the AI(R)aircraft would be assembled in Toulouse.

Although the AI(R)partners approved the initial feasibility study for the new aircraft in October, it is now up to the aircraft joint venture to demonstrate the business case for the programme. Sources admit that, with a host of other aircraft projects such as the Airbus A3XX now requiring funds, it is essential to keep down the cost and risks of the programme.

AI(R) has also started a second round of marketing to regional airlines, following up talks with 26 carriers in 1996. Once the business case is proved, AI(R)plans to go to a full launch as early as possible this year, with the aim of starting deliveries in 2001.

Source: Flight International