Fairchild Aerospace has made two major announcements during the show: its $760-million sale to fractional ownership company Flight Options for 25 Envoy 7 business jets and the strategic alliance with Israel Aircraft Industries for development of the 428JET regional jet. Fairchild now offers a regional jet line-up that spans everything from the 32-seat 328JET to the 100-seat 928JET, as well as the Envoy corporate jet variants. Karen Walker talks to Fairchild chairman and chief executive officer Carl Albert.

Q Now that you have entered the booming fractional ownership industry with the Envoy 7, how do you see your market for that aircraft being split between regional and corporate aicraft?

A Current projections are for production to be about 25% Envoy 7s to 75% 728s, but the market will tell us what the divide will be. I could see it going up to 30% or more Envoys. The aircraft come off the same production line, so we are in the luxurious position of being quite flexible depending on market dictates.

Q Is your deal with US-based Flight Options an exclusive arrangement, or are you also talking to other fractional ownership companies?

A We are talking to other fractional ownership companies. We also expect to do large volumes of individual sales of the Envoy. We have not really started our marketing campaign for the business jet product, but that will kick off at the National Business Aviation Association show later this year. I think, however, that it is a positive sign that the sales that have happened so far have happened mainly because people have come to us.

Q There is a lot of debate in the regional airline industry about the true size of the 70 and higher seat market. Also, there are now many players in this market. Does this concern you?

A I believe the market for the 70-100 seaters is very large. There is certainly room for two players and there was no way that we could have expected to have had that market to ourselves. Our own projections are based on taking 30% of the market, although we believe we will do better than that. Even with three players, we will do well.

Q What do you see as your chief advantages in this end of the regional jet market?

AFirst, we have the family concept with total commonality covering 55 to 105 seats. That means one cockpit and one type rating across the range.

Second, we have the right fuselage with its wide body. We see that the [Bombardier] CRJ 70-seater has the advantage of being first to the market and having some commonality with their 50-seater, but the cabin is small and it is a first-generation aircraft. We are also very pleased to see that Embraer chose a small cabin.

Q Do you see the pilot scope clauses in the USA ever being loosened, and how much will the current restrictions dampen that market in North America?

A The earliest markets for the 70-seaters seem to be Europe, while in North America the greatest interest is in the 928. Over the long term, there will probably be more market for the 90-seater. Australia and New Zealand are also long-term markets.

I don't know how quickly the US scope issue will move.

The airlines know that aircraft in this size will create new markets just as the 50-seater CRJ created new markets. So I think the market will sort out these issues. I cannot predict when it will happen, but I am confident it will be sorted out.

Q Two years ago, Fairchild executives were saying they would not enter the 90-100 seat market if Boeing went ahead with its 717. But now both airframes are launched. Why the change of mind?

A With the 928JET, we are offering a family of aircraft. The commonality is very obvious. In our business plan we are forecasting much greater orders for the 728s.

We believe airlines will operate mainly 728s with some additional 928s. With the 928 we are much lighter and smaller than the 717. But I think there is less of a distinction now between the regionals and the majors and the major carriers are now looking at this product.

Source: Flight Daily News