Ex-Fairchild Dornier programme's new owner looks for airframe suppliers and government finance for 75-seat twinjet

New Fairchild Dornier 728 owner D'Long has launched competitions to select new airframe suppliers as the company seeks to restart production with a mix of private and public funds. Deliveries of the 75-seat, General Electric CF34-powered twinjet, scheduled to begin this year under Fairchild Dornier's original plan, will now start in 2006 if the relaunch succeeds.

Project manager Werner von Anhalt says Chinese companies could manufacture up to 40% of the aircraft, including the tail, fuselage, wing and some subassemblies.

D'Long is also considering other suppliers in Asia, Europe and North America. "We'll have at least some production from a low-cost country," says von Anhalt, adding the 728 must be competitive with Brazil's Embraer 170. D'Long says it must reduce labour costs, but final assembly will remain in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

D'Long purchased the 728 programme from insolvent Fairchild Dornier in June, including a production prototype that never flew and a structural prototype now undergoing resumed fatigue testing.

D'Long has created a new German subsidiary, D'Long Aerospace, to study the relaunch. D'Long's head office in Shanghai is supporting its discussions with Chinese government-owned manufacturers. But the project is being managed by about 20 former Fairchild Dornier workers employed by D'Long's European arm, with different investment sources from D'Long in China.

"It's not going to be a Chinese project," von Anhalt says. "It's going to be a German-developed aircraft for the worldwide market."

D'Long is also seeking to line up a second private investor and government funds for the estimated $300-400 million in relaunch costs. Von Anhalt is confident Germany will provide funding once D'Long completes its industrial plan.

With the first 728 to be delivered in 2006, D'Long aims to manufacture 100 aircraft annually from 2008 and predicts roughly 10% of sales will be to Chinese airlines.

Source: Flight International