China's selection of its Asian Express partners has done nothing to cool the ardour of other Asian manufacturers to pursue regional jet projects. Indonesia is proceeding independently, but elsewhere in Asia a new dating game is underway to find suitors for three proposed programmes.

The focus again is on South Korea and Japan, which are both pursuing alliances separately. The Korean camp, which fell out with Beijing over the Asian Express project, now appears split over its choice of partner. Samsung Aerospace is trying again to reach an accord to buy bankrupt Dutch manufacturer Fokker, which plans to research and develop a 130-seater. But two other members of the Korea's failed Asian Express consortium - Korean Air and Daewoo - reportedly favour cooperation with AI(R) on a 70-seater.

In Japan, the action is also on two fronts. The Ministry of Trade and Industry hopes to fund a study for a Japanese-led Asian consortium to build a 100 seater aircraft, dubbed the 'Asia Community Airplane'. Separately, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is talking to Bombardier about a 100-seater based on the Canadair RJ - Mitsubishi already builds parts of the wing and fuselage for Bombardier's business jets.

Boeing is also in the frame after losing out on the Chinese venture. Boeing declines to comment, but has reportedly talked with Bombardier about co-development of what could become the same jet the Canadians are discussing with the Japanese. It is too early to predict a Mitsubishi-Bombardier-Boeing alliance, though Mitsubishi builds parts for other Boeing products.

David Knibb

Source: Airline Business