The Asia Pacific Rim area could be vital for the success of the resurrected Dornier 328 jet business, says AvCraft chief executive and majority owner Ben Bartel.

"The aircraft fits the profile needed for the development of air transport throughout this region," Bartel says, "From the Pacific islands through to south east Asia, it is ideal."

AvCraft Aviation announced last month that it is restarting the former Fairchild Dornier 328JET production line at Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The first completed 32-seat 328JET will roll off the production line by fourth quarter 2004. The company set a goal of an initial annual production rate of 18 aircraft.

Bartel believes that more than a third of the new Dornier 328 jets will be configured for non-airline activities under the Envoy name - the business, corporate or special mission derivation - although at the moment 50% of the sales are for non-airline use.

All but two of the 18 white tail aircraft inherited when AvCraft purchased the Fairchild Dornier 328 programme from the receivers in Germany, have been sold. Work will begin on five unfinished aircraft on the assembly line. These aircraft are between 20-80% completed.

All have buyers waiting for them - a move that encouraged Bartel to push the button to get manufacturing again. Three unnamed European suppliers are waiting to hear who is to produce the wing - a decision is expected in the next few days.


It is understood that as many as eight of the completed 328Jets have gone to Hainan Airlines as part of an outstanding order prior to the collapse of Fairchild Dornier.

AvCraft has brought an Envoy to Singapore and it is in the static park. "The cost of this aircraft is so competitive and the level of comfort is first-class," Bartel says. His research showed that it is an ideal fit for 95% of business aircraft buyers. "I had one guy who liked the aircraft but said it didn't suit because he would make two 3,500 mile trips every year. I chartered him a Gulfstream to make those trips and sold him an Envoy."

Wolfgang Walter, the managing director of Oberpfaffenhofen, is at Singapore.

One area that fascinates Walter and Bartel is the prospect of a Dornier 328 cargojet. "There would be some obvious advantages in cost and speed against the 228s currently in service in the region," says Bartel. "We are talking to potential customers."

Bartel says AvCraft is happy to be a niche player, and while saying that he is firmly of the belief that jets are the only business Dornier will embrace, he is bringing eight stored Dornier 328 turboprops back into service. He says he expects the 328 turboprop to be a "great ambassador for the 328 programme" and complement the jet. "It is not our intention to compete on the basis of outright airframe deliveries in the regional jet market," Bartel says.


AvCraft has made it a priority to act swiftly to support customers in the US where some 40% of the worldwide 328 fleet of 165 aircraft are operating, and bought the Fairchild Dornier 328 spare parts holding from M7 Aerospace in San Antonio, along with maintenance tooling, and ground support equipment.

The spare parts will be relocated at AvCraft's new service center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and at the BAE Systems' Herndon, Virginia facility. European customers will get spares and support from Oberpfaffenhofen.

AvCraft is also moving its Envoy completions centre to Myrtle Beach from Texas.


Source: Flight Daily News