Fairchild Dornier is embarking on a collaborative market and technical study with China Aviation Industry Corp I (AVIC I) to examine the feasibility of producing the proposed 528JET in China. The company is debating whether to develop the 50-60 seater or the larger 110-seat X28JET as the next member of its regional aircraft family.

"China would like a 50-60 seater and we're talking to them about a possible relationship," says Lou Harrington, Fairchild Dornier president. "This could be a very substantial market over the long term, and it fills a gap we have right now. We have a 30-seater and are jumping up to a 70-seater."

Fairchild is already developing the 728JET, which is due to fly next March. The company is committed to the 90-seat stretch 928JET, but is undecided whether to opt for a 110-seater or a 50-60 seat follow-on. AVIC I is looking for a regional successor to the Xian Y-7 turboprop in the form of an indigenous development or collaborative effort. It is likely the development would be an alternative to China's wider regional jet aspirations.

"China is interested in expanding its industrial capabilities and is looking at the possibilities for developing and fielding an aircraft in the 50-seater category," says Harrington. "Neither side is ready to make a commitment, so together we're doing a technical and economic study to determine whether to go forward."

Fairchild is following in the steps of a number of earlier attempts at collaborative aerospace developments with China, few of which got off the ground. AVIC curtailed the Boeing MD-90 TrunkLiner programme after failing to find local buyers for the licence-built twin jet, while Airbus' proposed 100-seat AE31X joint venture did not get beyond the drawing board.


"We're not underestimating the difficulties, but it's a market you don't want to turn your back on," says Harrington, a former McDonnell Douglas executive. Fairchild is encouraged by the recent emergence of regional air transportation in China, which has been partly pioneered by Hainan Airlines using 328 turboprops. It has since ordered 19 328JETS and is awaiting Beijing's blessing to purchase another 21, while also expressing interest in the 728JET.

Fairchild, as an initial step, has identified some 328/728JET structural subassemblies and component work which AVIC I has been invited to bid on. "This is to ensure we can work together and they can produce quality parts and to a schedule that we need," Harrington says.

Source: Flight International