THE REGIONAL-aircraft joint venture between British Aerospace and ATR partners Aerospatiale and Alenia has been signed and intense negotiations are now expected to take place at the Paris air show over bringing Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) into an enlarged consortium.

Speaking in the run-up to the air show, new DASA president Manfred Bischoff loaned his support to the aim of forming a "new alliance" alongside Airbus. "The most logical idea will be to bring together all of the civil-aircraft programmes of the partners under an appropriate organisation," he says.

The partners have stressed the importance of involving DASA in discussions over a future regional-aircraft programme, likely to focus on a new 100-seat twinjet. Initially, the ATR/BAe joint venture will concentrate on combining sales, marketing and customer support, with the manufacturing operations remaining independent. The new company, which brings together the ATR range with BAe's Avro regional jet and Jetstream turboprop businesses, will have its headquarters at ATR's base in Toulouse. Logistics support will be concentrated at BAe's Weybridge operation, while a pilot-training centre is under way at Alenia's Naples site.

The alliance sill needs European Commission approval, but that is expected to be a formality, given broad political consensus over the need for rationalisation within Europe's overcrowded regional-aircraft sector.

DASA, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with plans for a tie-up with Asian partners, which might also include ATR and BAe. It has proposed a radical new structure for its new small-airliner programme, now being studied with Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) and Samsung of South Korea.

DASA aircraft division president Hartmut Medhorn, who leaves the company later this year, says that DASA is proposing a "double bubble" structure to the project, effectively having two overlapping programmes, with two production lines - one European and one Asian.

Medhorn wants the European part of the programme to be managed by a new regional-jet subsidiary of Airbus Industrie. The Asian part would be led by AVIC.

The European and Asian versions of the airliner would have a common airframe, but powerplants and systems could differ according to the requirements of the local markets.o

While the Chinese have responded favourably to the proposal, it has yet to find favour among the other Airbus partners.

Source: Flight International