Julian Moxon andGilbert Sedbon/TOULOUSE

AERO INTERNATIONAL (Regional) (AI(R)) is studying a new 70-seat regional jet to take on competition from Canadair's planned stretched 64-seat version of the Regional Jet.

The study was announced by AI(R), chief executive Henri-Paul Puel, as he unveiled an order for 15 ATR 42-500 regional turboprops from Air Littoral.

The regional-jet move has heightened expectation that Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) will become part of a wider regional-aircraft grouping based around Al(R).

The AI(R) boss believes that the market for "a new 70-seater regional jet" between now and 2010 stands at over 400 aircraft. The Fokker 70 and Ai(R)'s own Avro RJ70 are the only competitors, although a launch decision on the stretched Canadair Regional Jet is expected this year.

Assuming that DASA can offload its interest in the Dornier 328 turboprop, it would not bring any aircraft in current production to the AI(R) group. Its participation in a wider European grouping would be virtually essential, given the likely $1 billion development cost of the new aircraft. DASA has signaled its continued interest in regional jets since the Fokker debacle - preferably in some sort of arrangement involving Airbus.

Puel says that the 70-seater will need to be followed by an 85-seat version, adding that the aircraft "...should be launched before the year 2000". Talks have been held with several potential engine suppliers, including BMW Rolls Royce with its BR715.

Puel says that developments of existing aircraft in the AI(R) range will continue, although the plan for an 80-seat version of the ATR 72 is likely to be dropped. A faster version of the ATR 72 is on the cards, however, along with a maritime version of the ATR 42, being promoted strongly by ATR partner Alenia. Increased cabin pressurisation for the Avro regional jets is also planned.

See News Analysis, PP26-7.

Source: Flight International