Fairchild Aerospace proposes to develop a freighter version of its new 328JET, while undertaking range performance improvements of the recently certificated regional aircraft.

"There is a proposal for an all-cargo version of the 328JET," says Stanley Deal, Fairchild vice-president 228/328/428 series. He declines to identify the interested carrier, but says: "The aircraft has the flexibility for containerised operations." Fairchild is comparing containers and pallet options.

The proposed freighter would entail more extensive design modifications than in the earlier study of a "quick change" version of the 328 turboprop. A full-size cargo door would be installed on the left or right aft fuselage. The latter configuration would allow the aircraft to retain the left-hand side baggage/bulkload door.

Fairchild proposes a customised container for the 328JET that "would allow total optimum use of the aircraft's cross-section", says Deal. The present passenger version of the aircraft has a cabin cross-section of 2.18m (7ft 2in) and can carry a maximum payload of 3,266kg (7,200lb).

Improvements to the passenger 328JET would raise the aircraft's certified 15,200kg maximum take-off weight (MTOW) by 454kg. Atlantic Coast Airlines, which has tentatively ordered 25 of the aircraft, is looking for increased baggage payload. Modifications include reinforced gear and main wing. Fairchild is also working to raise the aircraft's operating ceiling from 31,000ft to 35,000ft, extending its range to 1,520km (820nm).

"These are two different requirements for two different customers," says J C Audet, Fairchild chief engineer, high-wing aircraft programme, "but ultimately the 328JET will be certified to FL 350 and the 1,000lb increased MTOW at the same time." It is to be available by late spring or early summer.

Also targeted for certification by the middle of next year is an extended range (ER) version of the 328JET and the Envoy 3 corporate aircraft version. The ER, in development, will have two wing fairing "saddle" tanks, which will extend the aircraft's range to 3,700km.

Meanwhile, Fairchild has begun test flying a modified 328JET to extend maximum cruise speed of the planned stretch 428JET from Mach 0.66 to 0.7. To delay the onset of buffeting, plates have been fitted on both sides under the aircraft horizontal stabiliser, and wing drag has been reduced.

The higher speed may be made available to 328JET production aircraft, says Fairchild.

Source: Flight International