Kieran Daly/LONDON

ATR AND BRITISH Aerospace are on the verge of announcing the long-awaited combination of their regional-airliner activities. Under the deal, BAe's Jetstream operation will merge with the Franco-Italian consortium. Its Avro regional-jet division will also be brought into the deal, possibly through a joint marketing arrangement.

The announcement could come as soon as 23 January. BAe and ATR came close to finalising a deal at the turn of the year, but European holidays and the ATR icing issue in the USA put it back.

The initial aim appears to be to use this deal to create the nucleus of a European regional-aircraft consortium, with other partners eventually being brought in.

Fokker and Saab say that they are not included in the alliance and Spain's CASA is known not to be on board at this stage, despite its ambitions to find a partner to help it break into the high-speed turboprop market.

CASA has confirmed, however, that its proposed model 3000 high-speed turboprop has been put "on standby", although not formally cancelled.

The Jetstream and ATR product ranges should combine relatively neatly, with ATR covering the 50- to 70-seat market with its ATR 42 and 72 range, while Jetstream covers the 19- to 30-seat sector with the Jetstream 31 and 41. The most likely casualty is the slow-selling, relaunched, Jetstream 61, which overlaps with ATR in the 70-seat market. The first new project for the partners is likely to be development of the ATR 82, expected to be an 80-seat turboprop.

Avro is likely to be brought within the deal through a marketing alliance, which would see its 70- to 120-seat RJ series sold alongside the turboprops as part of a regional range.

Daimler-Benz Aerospace had attempted to strike a similar deal with ATR within the Regioliner consortium, but the proposals collapsed in 1993. The German group has since been attempting to form a European regional-jet consortium around its Fokker subsidiary.

Mike Turner, chairman of BAe Commercial Aerospace, outlined the need for a single "Airbus-style" consortium in the regional-aircraft market covering jets and turboprops, speaking at the Flight International European Aerospace Forum in November 1994. He added that Asian partners could also be brought in.

The signing of a BAe/ATR alliance is likely to create a tussle for leadership with Daimler Benz, which could leave the European regional-aircraft market split into two rival camps.

Jetstream has unveiled the latest in a string of recent orders: 20 more Jetstream 41s for Atlantic Coast Airlines. The Washington Dulles Airport-based carrier is part of the United Express network and already operates 15 of the type. Jetstream says that the deal takes J41 "orders and commitments" to 129.

Source: Flight International