British Aerospace hopes to be in a position to make a formal go-ahead decision for the re-engined Avro RJ-X family by the end of September, even if not backed by commitments from a launch customer.

The RJ-X, unveiled by BAe in mid-February, is a proposed updated development of the Avro RJ family, powered by the new AlliedSignal AS900 engine which will provide improved performance and lower operating costs. Service entry is planned for the second quarter of 2001.

Nick Godwin, BAe vice-president marketing, says the programme is proceeding on schedule, with a joint BAe/GKN-Westland/AlliedSignal engineering team having been set up at BAe's Woodford plant in the UK to finalise the definition. "The team is finalising the [engine] nacelle and pylon installation," he says. Discussions are under way with existing and potential suppliers about participation on the programme.

A decision on one major area of the new aircraft, the flightdeck avionics, is imminent, says Godwin. "The likelihood is that we will adopt the present flightdeck with a few minor changes and plan for a mid-life update in around five years." It is planned that the mid-life upgrade would have a new five or six screen liquid crystal display system.

Godwin says offers have been made to two RJ customers with a view to securing launch commitments during the third quarter of this year. Godwin says an order is not a necessity as the RJ-X is a derivative of an aircraft in production.

Meanwhile, AlliedSignal says the technology "is fully ready" to begin development of the AS900 turbofan for the proposed RJ-X, and maintains an entry-into-service target of 2001 is possible.

The first engine to test is scheduled for July , with certification targeted for the first quarter of 2001. The initial 6,500lb thrust (30kN) version is aimed at Bombardier's new Continental super mid-size business jet, but this is not due to enter service until 2002. "We have a critical design review set for August, and the first development nacelle and thrust reverser is to arrive from GKN Westland in the UK in February," says AlliedSignal Engines and Systems, commercial propulsion vice-president, Dominique Hedon.

"We are talking to several potential partners on developing and making the gearbox for the RJX version," says Hedon, who says the new engine will also be offered for retrofit. The AS977, as the RJ-X version would be termed, will be rated at 6,500-7,000lb thrust.

Source: Flight International