Principal risk-sharing partners in Fairchild Dornier's proposed new 728JET family of regional aircraft should be known by the end of the month. The main design configuration is expected to be frozen by May.

The company's regional and business aircraft president Earl Robinson says that a total of 17 competing companies have submitted keys bids to participate in the development, of which about one third are from Asia. They include a Samsung Aerospace-led South Korean consortium, Aerospace Industrial Development of Taiwan and a Kawasaki-Textron partnership. The aircraft is a new design, with a low wing configuration and five-abreast seating in the cabin.

Decisions on allocating the aircraft's main structural work packages, consisting of the wing and fuselage, as well as the selection of a powerplant, are due shortly. This is scheduled to be followed in April by decisions on the supply of the 728JET's empennage, landing gear, flight controls, electrical and hydraulic systems and auxiliary power unit. Its twin engines, to be mounted on the wing, will be selected from among the Allison 3012, General Electric CF34-8 or Pratt & Whitney/Snecma SPW14.

"We will be in a position by the end of March to move forward," says Robinson, but he adds that the start of the planned 39-month long development programme will depend on customer demand. The company is believed to be targeting Lufthansa, Crossair and other former Aero International (Regional) Airjet 70 advisory group airlines.

Launch of the $600 million 728JET programme is intended to be followed by the development of the 50-seat 528JET and stretched 90-seat 928JET versions.

Fairchild Dornier, in the meantime, has given its firmest indication yet that it will proceed with the 428JET growth version of the 328JET, but is still working to finalise the aircraft's definition. The aircraft is stretched by 3m, seating 42-44 passengers.

Major decisions still to be taken include whether to retain an uprated 39kN (6,650lb)-thrust version of the PW306B engine, or switch to the 32kN PW308 for improved performance. The latter will extend the 428JET's 22-24 month development period to up to 30 months, says Robinson.

Source: Flight International