Julian Moxon/PARIS

British Aerospace Regional Aircraft is preparing to launch a re-engined, upgraded "RJX" version of the Avro RJ with 15% lower direct operating costs, reductions in weight and up to 20% less maintenance costs.

The company, which is in the process of a divorce with Aero International (Regional) partner ATR, has been prompted by moves by Fairchild Dornier to launch a 70-seater rival to the RJ.

"We're very conscious of the Fairchild Dornier proposal," admits BAe Regional Aircraft vice-president for sales and marketing, Jeff Marsh, who says he is "well aware" that longstanding Avro RJ customer Crossair is considering a major launch order for up to 60 new aircraft to replace its Saab 340s and Avro RJ85s and 100s.

The RJX is likely to be offered with the new 31kN(7,000lb)-thrust AS907 engine from AlliedSignal, due for certification in 2000, although the Pratt &Whitney (Canada) PW308 is also being considered. A decision between the two engines is due soon.

The AlliedSignal engine will fit directly into the existing installation, says Marsh, and will be offered as a retrofit option for the Avro RJ family. Changes from the original LF507 include a new, non-geared fan, higher pressure ratio high pressure compressor and dual full authority digital engine control. "The engines taken off the RJs could be used to retrofit the old LF502 engines powering BAe146s," he adds. Baseline power from the new engine is about the same as that of the old powerplant, but climb and cruise performances are improved, says Marsh.

Other changes to the aircraft include a change to "between five and six" liquid crystal flat-panel cockpit displays, with the supplier yet to be chosen, along with further weight savings of up to 900kg from the use of composite materials in "non-critical" areas such as fairings, and possibly flight control surfaces. Hydraulic and electrical systems will be simplified and BAe is working on improving cruising speed by redesigning the wing leading edges.

The RJX will cost "only a few million pounds" to develop, says Marsh, and will be funded from within BAe Regional Aircraft. He adds, however, that "-we're looking to the supply chain to contribute to the development costs".

BAe has almost sold out of RJs up to mid-2000, "-so the RJX does not have to be available before 2001". Production will remain at current levels, at around 20-25 aircraft a year, "for the indefinite future", he adds.

Source: Flight International