FAIRCHILD DORNIER could launch a turbofan version of its 30-seat Dornier 328 next month, with development of a stretched 50-seat turbofan to follow in mid-1997 after an eight-month definition phase.

The turbofan development, an alternative to the long-awaited turboprop stretched-version of the aircraft, has already been deemed technically feasible, and would require few modifications, says Fairchild Dornier president James Robinson.

Robinson says that investigations into a 328-stretch have shown increasing market interest in small regional jets, which sparked the re-engineing investigation. The company hopes to fly a turbo- fan-powered 30-seat prototype as early as the third quarter of 1997, with certification a year later.

"People will remain sceptical until it's done," says Robinson. The 30-seater would be the first jet-powered airliner in its class in the market since the Yakovlev Yak-40.

Fairchild Dornier says that the 30-seat version will "-set a benchmark for regional jets", requiring less than 1,200m (4,000ft) of runway for take-off and landing. The 50-seat variant is now expected to require some 1,430m of runway, although the company is examining ways to improve this. The target price for the aircraft has been set below $14 million - cheaper by around $1 million than the rival Embraer EMB-145. Airline presentations will start later this month, he says.

The 30-seat version will be designated the Dornier 328-300, with the 50-seat turbofan called the 328-700. The stretch turboprop, known as the 328-500, is still being considered as a possibility, and would be powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150/2s.

The current 30-seat turboprop versions will remain in production, even if the turbofan programme goes ahead. Robinson says that the company should be able to produce all versions of the aircraft on a common production line.

Dornier is also studying a high-density cabin layout for the aircraft, with four-abreast seating accommodation for 37-39 passengers in the standard-length aircraft.

The company is studying several power plant alternatives. For the 328-300, the candidates are the AlliedSignal LF507-1F, or a derated LF507-2; the PW306/1 from P&WC; and the General Electric CFE738. Candidates to power the 328-700 are the LF507-2, the Allison AE3007G, and the P&WC PW308.

The -300 variant would have an estimated top cruise speed of 375kt (700km/h) at 22,000ft, compared with the current standard -110's top speed of 335kt, and the -700 will cruise at a maximum 410kt, compared with 370kt for the -500. Robinson says that he hopes to achieve a 1,650km (900nm) range for both aircraft, with a later extended-range version operating for more than 2,200km.

Fairchild Dornier is aiming for minimum structural and aerodynamic changes between the standard-length and stretched variants, with the -500 and -700 having an additional two fuselage plugs, a new fuselage/wing fairing and a longer, 23.4m wing with adjusted rib spacing to accommodate the new engines.

Robinson says that the -700 variant will probably require more sweep on the outboard section of the wing to meet performance targets. The new wing could also be equipped with a bleed-air de-icing system, rather than the current rubber-boot system.

The wing could then be scaled later in the programme and fitted to the 30-seat variant for a further performance improvement.

Source: Flight International