Bombardier is in talks with three potential South Korean partners to jointly develop a 90-seat turboprop aircraft.

Discussions with the Canadian airframer began in early 2012, say industry sources. Negotiations, however, have not been smooth sailing, resulting in a delay in the decision on whether they should launch the programme, add the sources.

Flightglobal understands that the potential partners include state-owned Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Korea Aerospace Research Institute, as well as Korean Air's aerospace arm KAL Aerospace.

One source familiar with the discussions between KAI and Bombardier says that the two companies are still far from an agreement.

"Bombardier and KAI negotiations are not smooth, not good. So it's still unclear when a decision will be made on whether to launch a 90-seat turboprop," says a person close to the discussions.

When contacted, KAI would only say that the programme is now undergoing an "initial technical assessment", and that a decision is due to be made "in some months".

The Koreans are targeting to capture markets in Europe, Africa and Asia with the turboprop, add sources.

In 2010, KAI had said that it was evaluating whether to launch a 90-seat turboprop programme. It also said that the aircraft will most likely be powered by a new engine under development by Pratt & Whitney, and be aimed at global markets.

At that time, there were no mention of any intentions to cooperate with Bombardier on the project.

When contacted, Bombardier would only say that it "continuously holds exploratory discussions with entities around the world to address various business opportunities", and would not comment on the nature of the discussions.

KAI, South Korea's largest aerospace firm, produces military training aircraft and components of commercial aircraft.

It has also been looking to expand its civil aircraft business to include manufacturing aircraft for general aviation and commercial airline markets.

Airframers ATR and Bombardier have also, for some years, been talking about developing a 90-seat turboprop. Despite customers' demands, neither have, however, launched a programme.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news