Aero International (Regional)'s (AI(R)) decision to cancel the Airjet 70 regional jet programme has had considerable fall-out in other sectors of the industry, with French-engine builder Snecma saying that it is pulling out of a deal with Pratt & Whitney Canada to develop the SPW14 engine selected for the aircraft. The decision has also left potential Airjet partner, the Korean Commercial-Aircraft Development Consortium (KCDC), searching for another risk-sharing project in which to take a stake.
The deal to develop the 60-67kN (13,500-15,000lb) SPW14 is expected to be terminated now that its only application has folded. Snecma says that it does not now expect to formalise its joint venture with P&WC in the light of the Airjet 70 decision. The Canadians claim that they continue to assess the market for other applications.
The cancellation has also thrown the KCDC partners Samsung Aerospace, Korean Air and Daewoo Heavy Industries into turmoil. Korean Air was ready to take a 40% stake in the Airjet 70 programme. Now their attentions have turned elsewhere, notably Fairchild Dornier's 70-seat 728 regional jet. The approach does not have the full support of KCDC partners. Some believe that after several false starts on programmes with niche players such as Fokker and AI(R) they should turn their attentions to Airbus and Boeing. The fear is, however, that with the South Korean Government underwriting much of the development money, the financial crisis in Seoul may see funds withdrawn.
Cancellation of the regional jet has left the European consortium with only the 48- to 70-seat ATR turboprop family and 80- to 120-seat Avro RJ regional-jet family remaining in production.
AI(R) confirms that the cancellation on 5 December resulted from the inability to finance the $1.2 billion programme, while its partners were faced with also funding the growth versions of the A340 (launched three days later), the Airbus A3XX family, the AE316/ AE317 regional aircraft planned for development with China and Singapore and, possibly, the planned European Future Large Aircraft military transport.
The group says that it will "continue to work" in the regional-turboprop market, pointing out that it has sold more than 90 new and 30 secondhand aircraft this year, and with optimistic forecasts for future demand. The future of the enterprise remains under discussion, however, with three "wise-men" from partners Aerospatiale, Alenia and British Aerospace, plus one from AI(R), looking at possibilities ranging from turboprop alliances with other regional-aircraft manufacturers to a complete reshaping of the group. Bombardier is the only regional-aircraft manufacturer to have a 70-seater regional jet, although Embraer has proposed a 70-seat aircraft.
Source: Flight International