Andrzej Jeziorski/BASLE

Crossair and Lufthansa CityLine have signed letters of intent (LoI) with Fairchild Dornier to continue work on the manufacturer's proposed 55-90 seat family of regional jets. Swiss-based Crossair may place a major launch order by the end of this year (Flight International, 25-31 March).

According to Crossair president Moritz Suter, launch orders could come from Lufthansa CityLine and possibly a US airline as well as his own company. Robinson says that briefings have so far been given to United Airlines and US Airways, while Northwest Airlines will also be briefed soon.

Suter says Crossair would be interested in 60 firm orders and 60 options, and that if the design lives up to its promises it will be way ahead of competition. "This is the concept the regional airline industry has been crying out for," he says.

CityLine is more cautious because of its current relationship with Bombardier, whose 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) it now operates, but sources close to the programme say CityLine's order would be likely to equal Crossair's, bringing the value of the total order up to $1.2 billion. Cityline is also evaluating the 70-seat CRJ-700 and confirms that it is "-interested in both aircraft".

CityLine says that it, together with Crossair, has handed Fairchild Dornier a joint catalogue of requirements for the programme, and that its terms and conditions which include items such as performance, cockpit commonality, and customer support must be met.

Fairchild Dornier must present its final design for the basic 70-seat 728JET by the end of June, after which a decision will be made by the airlines on whether to proceed.

Crossair's order would make the 728JET family a replacement for Crossair's entire fleet of airliners with fewer than 100 seats. These include Saab 340B and 2000 turboprops, and Avro RJ85/RJ100s. Suter says the aircraft would be delivered between the end of 2001 and 2007. According to Crossair executive vice-president Fritz Grotz, the airline's 11 Boeing MD-80s will stay in service until 2005.

Fairchild Dornier is to select the powerplant for the aircraft by 30 April, says Robinson, adding that the main contenders are the General Electric CF34-8D and Pratt & Whitney Canada/Snecma with the SPW14. Preliminary specifications include a baseline maximum take-off weight of 33,150kg with a 7.7t payload, a range of 2,960km (1,600nm) extendable to 3,700km (for all variants), and a cruise speed of Mach 0.81 with a cruise altitude of 37,000ft (11,300m).

At the same time, Fairchild Dornier has revealed that it is working on a long term study stretching the 90-seat 928JET variant still further, to 102 seats.

Source: Flight International