Fairchild Dornier programme faces challenges including re-establishing product support and selling 15 'white tails'

The new owner of the Fairchild Dornier 328JET programme faces challenges in reviving the aircraft. Re-establishing product support for the jet and turboprop 328s in regional airline and corporate shuttle use is the first priority for the new Fairchild Dornier, says chief executive and majority owner Ben Bartel.

"Customer support will cover our overheads," says Bartel. But the company has to sell the 18 completed 328JETs acquired with the deal, and restart production of the aircraft, if it is to succeed.

"We have to sell some aircraft," says Bartel, whose company AvCraft completed the acquisition of the 328 programme from Fairchild Dornier's bankruptcy administrators last month. Leesburg, Virginia-based AvCraft became the completion centre for non-airline 328s just before Fairchild Dornier went under last year.

Three of the 18 already completed aircraft have been sold to Germany's Aero Dienst, which has been appointed as a service centre and regional distributor for the corporate version of the 328JET. A subsidiary of the German automobile association ADAC, Aero Dienst will operate two aircraft as air ambulances and one in a convertible 12- to 32-seat configuration.

"We could have all 18 sold in the next three months," says Bartel. A further five aircraft are on the production line at Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, in various stages of completion. "We have everything complete for them except the engines. They were needed to provide spares and support for other engines in the fleet," he says. Pratt & Whitney Canada, supplier of the PW305 turbofans, "wants to help us going forward", Bartel says.

As Fairchild Dornier works to restart production of the 328JET, the only vendors "locked and loaded" are P&WC and avionics supplier Honeywell. "Other than that it is open season," says Bartel. GKN Aerospace's previous role as rear fuselage and empennage supplier is "sacrosanct", he says, because the components are composite. Italy's Aermacchi produced the fuselage, but the tooling is owned by Fairchild Dornier and could be moved, Bartel says.

The biggest issue is the wing tooling, which had been moved by Fairchild Dornier to San Antonio, Texas, and is now owned by Dornier Aviation North America. "We do not know what will happen," says Bartel. "It is very complicated: we own the design; they own the tooling." Fairchild Dornier's goal is to restart the 328JET production line in July and deliver the first aircraft in January next year.

The new Fairchild Dornier sees a market for at least 300, and potentially more than 700, aircraft, split 75:25 between non-airline and airline customers.

Source: Flight International