Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Fairchild Dornier has renamed its corporate version of the 328JET business jet the Envoy 3, and set up a separate corporate sales department, headed by a former Gulfstream executive, in an effort to boost sales in this burgeoning market sector. The company is also planning to become involved in fractional ownership.

Fairchild Dornier president Jim Robinson says: "We are differentiating our corporate aircraft from the [regional] 328JET, to make a strong statement to the market that this product is unique in its capabilities." The company declines to reveal details of its fractional ownership scheme until a formal announcement is made later this year.

"We will not set up an independent venture, but will sell our aircraft to an existing programme," says vice-president for product development Earl Robinson.

The manufacturer also plans to offer corporate variants of the 428JET and 728JET when the aircraft become available in around 2002 and 2001, respectively. Like the regional 328JET, which made its international debut at the Berlin International Air Show in Germany from 18-24 May, the Envoy 3 will be powered by two 27kN (6,000lb)-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306/9 turbofans, which will offer a cruise speed of around 400kt (740km/h) and a range of 4,440km (2,400nm). The $13 million aircraft "-offers the cabin size of a Gulfstream IV at the price of a mid-sized jet".

The 328JET has completed envelope expansion up to Mach 0.67 (400kt) and the second prototype is expected to fly by the end of the week. US certification is planned for March 1999 and supplemental type certification for the corporate interior is expected to follow shortly after. First deliveries are scheduled to begin in late 1999.

"We have the capability to build around 18-24 Envoy 3s a year and, on the basis of our existing backlog, we expect to reach that target by late 2000," says Earl Robinson.

The San Antonio, Texas-based company has 11 orders for the Envoy 3 to date, and expects corporate sales to represent 25-30% of the total orderbook.

A full scale mock-up will be on display at the National Business Aircraft Association convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on 19-21 October. "The first prototype to demonstrate the corporate interior will be a 328 turboprop," says Earl Robinson. Completions will be performed from Fairchild Dornier's factories in San Antonio and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, although the option is available to purchase a green aircraft.

The company is also holding a "design and bid competition" with completions centres in the USA and Europe.

Source: Flight International