Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

THE Fairchild Dornier 428JET could be launched as early as the AsianAerospace show in Singapore which starts on 24 February, providing outstanding technical issues can be resolved in time, says the manufacturer.

The aircraft is a 42- to 44-seat stretched version of the 328JET, with a slightly larger wing and an uprated variant of the Pratt & Whitney Canada 29kN PW306B powerplant. Fairchild Dornier says the decision on whether to aim for 42 or 44 seats depends on meeting short-field performance minima.

The performance of the stretched aircraft will fall below that of the 328JET on short fields, but Fairchild Dornier is nevertheless working to achieve a take-off distance of less than 1,525m (5,000ft). The number of seats depends on whether the engines will be powerful enough to meet these performance minima with the increased airframe weight. The turbofan version of the 32-seat 328 was publicly unveiled on 4 February (Flight International, 11-17 February).

While the company prepares to launch the 428JET, it is also deeply involved in issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) to build structures for the proposed all-new 70-seat 728JET. Responses to wing and empennage packages are expected by early March. An RFP to manufacture the fuselage is due shortly.

Samsung Aerospace is leading a South Korean bid which includes suppliers such as Korean Air, Daewoo and Hyundai. Officials say that the consortium is looking at all three structural proposals as a complete package, but concedes that meeting Fairchild Dornier's cost targets will prove a major challenge.

Taiwan's Aero Industry Development Centre is also interested in all three 728JET work packages and is evaluating what to bid for. Kawasaki Heavy Industries has teamed with Textron Aerostructures to compete for work on the aircraft's wing.

According to Fairchild Dornier senior vice-president for product development, Earl Robinson, potential European fuselage partners include Sogerma, and 328 partners Aermacchi and OGMA.

Fairchild Dornier says that it expects a launch order for the 70-seater in May from up to three European airlines to kick-start a 39-month, $500 million development schedule.

Meanwhile, negotiations are under way over four major 30-seat regional-jet deals in the USA, including 75 firm orders and 75 options for AMR Eagle, 50 firm orders and 50 options for Continental Express, 40 firm orders and 40 options each for Comair and SkyWest Airlines, and 20 firm orders and 20 options for Business Express. Fairchild Dornier is competing on all the bids against Brazil's Embraer RJ-135 .

Source: Flight International