Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Fairchild Dornier has admitted that doubts are growing over Crossair's commitment to the new 728JET family of regional aircraft, as a result of recent configuration decisions which have gone against the Swiss airline's wishes.

Crossair and Lufthansa CityLine each signed a letter of intent earlier this year to buy the 70-seat aircraft and its later 55-seat and 90-seat stablemates . The airlines were expected to place up to 60 firm orders with 60 options each by the end of the year.

Now, Fairchild Dornier managing director Thomas Brandt says that no Crossair order is expected this year. At best, the airline could give the manufacturer a second letter of intent, keeping open the possibility of an order in 1999.

"The delay with Crossair came because we did not follow their configuration wishes," confirms Brandt. Decisions on the fuselage cross-section and the powerplant for the aircraft went against Crossair in favour of Lufthansa CityLine - Crossair favoured a 3.4m (11.2ft) fuselage width and the Pratt & Whitney Canada/Snecma SPW 14 engine, while the manufacturer instead selected a 3.25m-wide fuselage and the less powerful General Electric CF34-8D.

"We know [Crossair] are talking to other manufacturers, so I would say it's not as sure as the Lufthansa order," says Brandt. He adds that Fairchild Dornier is still counting on a launch order from the German carrier in December. Crossair vice-president of flight operations Andre Dose says the airline has been approached by Embraer and Bombardier, which wants to present its new BRJ family of regional jets "as long as the race is open".

Dose insists Fairchild Dornier is still the "favourite" among the manufacturers. He attributes the delayed order to the management shake-up at the US-German company earlier this year and to the fact that an order would require approval from Crossair and the parent SAir boards.

Source: Flight International