Buoyed by its recent Lufthansa 728JET launch order, Fairchild Aerospace says its option and order backlog will exceed $10 billion by the end of 1999. The company predicts "substantial" new business for its 328JET/428JET family, particularly in North America, where scope clauses changes are expected.

"We think it's the beginning of a revolution. We believe the changes over the next 10 years will be more dramatic than the last 10 years," says chairman and chief executive Carl Albert. The expected new business for smaller regional jets, such as the 328JET, will come as a result of the mass movement to 50 and 70-seater jets and passenger demand for all-RJ fleets over the next decade, adds Fairchild Aerospace. "There will be a new standard," says Albert who adds that new growth will occur in follow-on years because "we've bet the current fleet of RJs will become obsolete due to their narrow cabin cross-section".

Current orders and options stand at $6.7 billion, with firm orders accounting for $3.7 billion of that. Some of this is attributed to Wisconsin-based Skyways which takes its first 328JET at the end of July. The airline has orders for five, plus 10 options, and is expected to put the 328JET into service around August. Fairchild plans to deliver 29 aircraft by the end of the year, four of them 328 turboprops. Production of 328JETs will rise to four a month from 2000 onwards, with some of this tally being the Envoy corporate version. Certification by the European Joint Aviation Authorities is expected by the end of June, followed "within days" by that of the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Meanwhile, development of the 42/44-seat 428JET is "on track" for entry into service in early 2003, says the company. "The 428 will find a strong market in North America with the large regionals" predicts Albert. Amid growing awareness that a quicker time to market would probably help sales of the 428JET, the company has begun talks with several unidentified companies over possible ways of speeding up the programme. The resources of Fairchild Aerospace are stretched to the limit with the on-going programmes, and engineering support is being sought to help accelerate the 428JET effort.

The larger 728JET and 928JET developments are in hand, meanwhile, with $1.7 billion committed to the 70/105-seat family. This includes $700 million research and development and $500 million in working capital, he adds.

Source: Flight International