ATR and Bombardier are competing for a 10-aircraft turboprop order from east Malaysian regional carrier Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).

The new carrier is evaluating two 70-seat types, the ATR 72 and the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, says FAX chief executive Raja Azmi Raja Razali.

"We haven't really put a timeframe on a decision, but we are evaluating the aircraft," says Raja Azmi. He adds that the airline expects the first to be delivered by the "end of next year or early 2008".

FAX will use the 70-seaters to replace its seven Fokker 50s and for market expansion, says Raja Azmi, who sees potential for FAX to launch international turboprop operations linking east Malaysia with nearby countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

FAX started operations on 1 August, when it took over Malaysia Airlines (MAS) regional routes in east Malaysia, and is leasing the 50-seat Fokker 50 from MAS's parent company Penerbangan Malaysia on five-year contracts.

In terms of financing, Raja Azmi is circumspect. "Part of the evaluation is how we will finance it," he says, adding it would be a purchase or a mix of purchased aircraft and others on sale-leaseback deals.

"If we go with Bombardier then we might get some export agency financing, and if we go with ATR we might get some financing from France or Italy," he adds.

Source: Flight International