AvCraft Aviation says that its desire to reduce costs and increase the production rate of the Dornier 328Jet were the main reasons behind a decision to bring wing assembly back in-house, rather than place the work with a sub-contractor.
The company, which purchased the assets of the Fairchild Dornier 328 turboprop and 328Jet programmes from the receivers in 2002, has contracted Fulda, Germany-based EDAG Engineering & Design to produce new wing tooling, to enable production to restart at AvCraft's Oberpfaffenhoffen plant south of Munich where the final assembly line is located. The company says the move will require an investment of €3.6 million ($4.3 million).
When the 328Jet was previously in production, wings had been assembled in Oberpfaffenhoffen until 2000, when it was then transferred along with the tooling to Fairchild Dornier's US arm in San Antonio, Texas - the assets of which were purchased by M7 Aerospace after the company's collapse. AvCraft has had an acrimonious relationship with the new owners and was unable to agree terms for continued wing production.
"We stopped negotiations with M7 about acquiring the old tooling," says Wolfgang Walter, managing director of AvCraft's German facility. He adds that the plan to build new tooling was made after determining that old equipment had "insufficient life left. The new tooling will save us time and cost in the long run."
AvCraft says the move in-house follows an evaluation of "attractive offers" from other suppliers, including some in eastern Europe. Walter says the decision "will help us to lower the cost of the aircraft" as it will be "more efficient to have the wings built next to the final assembly line".
He adds that the availability of experienced workers at the plant will also enable the airline to increase the production rate more quickly and effectively.
AvCraft is optimistic that it will be able to announce new 328Jet customers for "in the next few months". The first new build 328Jet should be completed by the fourth quarter of this year while work is advancing on the five semi-finished aircraft.
"The first 328Jet with German-built wings will be completed in the middle of next year," says Walter. He adds that the plan is to initially build 15 aircraft a year but quickly ramp up to the maximum annual rate of around 50 aircraft.
MAX KINGSLEY-JONES / LONDON
Source: Flight International