AvCraft expects the first "new" Dornier 328Jet to come off the German production line in less than a month, but has drastically cut its projected market forecast by around 70%.
Having only last year predicted a potential market for between 700 and 1,200 30-seat aircraft, the company now says the real figures are more like 250-350 over six or seven years. "We were flat out wrong, I don't think that at all now," says AvCraft chief executive Ben Bartel.
Speaking at the Speednews corporate and regional conference in Palm Springs, California, Bartel said that, despite the radical readjustment in the overall market, confidence remains high in the programme. He says: "If we can build 30 aircraft a year, I'll be happy." So far AvCraft has delivered 23 328Jets, with a further seven due to be handed over by the end of 2004. Bartel adds that "all but two" of the aircraft projected for assembly in 2005 have been sold. "That's only 12 aircraft sold, but at least we have sold them," he says.
AvCraft intends to raise annual production to 18 aircraft in 2006, 30 in 2007 and 40 in 2008. However, ramping up to restart production is being slowed because of a "lot of vendor and parts issues", he says. Largely as a result of credibility problems, AvCraft decided to bring wing assembly and completion in-house. "To have one part of the process holding up the programme just doesn't work for us because it is a very fragile programme. The biggest problem has been the vendors. Some 97% of the cost of the aircraft is locked and loaded with companies like Pratt & Whitney Canada and Aermacchi which have been fantastic. But there are a couple of vendors that want to recoup all their money over the first two or three shipsets, so where we have not been able to reach an agreement, we're having to go somewhere else," Bartel says.
Current sales prospects include up to 273 aircraft, of which 158 are for potential airline use, 71 for corporate customers and 44 for special missions. As a result, AvCraft says: "The airline market comprises 61% of the 328Jet's market followed by 24% corporate and 15% special mission."
GUY NORRIS / PALM SPRINGS
Source: Flight International