Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Fairchild Dornier is to launch the 42-seat 428JET programme at the Berlin International Air Show (ILA) as the centrepiece of a series of announcements on its regional jet programmes. The company is also expected to reveal a stretch of the 90-seat 928JET and new potential customers for the 728JET.

The launch of the 42/44-seat Fairchild Dornier 428JET - a stretched version of the current 30-seat 328JET - has been anticipated for some months. Now, sources close to the programme confirm that a programme launch will be announced formally at Berlin, and at the Regional Airlines Association annual gathering in Minneapolis on 19 May.

Company senior vice-president for product development Earl Robinson confirms that various major announcements are planned, but declines to comment further before the show.

The 55/90-seat 528/728/ 928JET family is expected to receive a boost with a "statement of confidence"in the programme coming from likely launch customers, and three additional potential customers being revealed. One of the three is expected to be French 328JET customer Proteus, while another will be Eurowings, which confirms that it is interested in 30 aircraft from the 728JET family to replace its 27 ATR 42 and 72 turboprops, and 10 British Aerospace 146 jets.

Eurowings stresses that this is a "medium to long term requirement", and that fleet replacement is not anticipated before 2001. The company adds that it is also interested in a 100-seater, and is looking at the Airbus A319M5, Boeing 717 and a new offering anticipated from Fairchild Dornier.

The US-German manufacturer has already been examining a stretched 102-seat derivative of the 928, but programme sources now say that the ILA show will see the announcement of a 110-seater requirement from customers already interested in the 728JETfamily. This latest addition to Fairchild Dornier's proposed jet range is now informally being called the 1128JET.

Lufthansa CityLine and Crossair have expressed strong interest in the 728JET family, with potential requirements for 60 aircraft each, and an unnamed US airline has been expected to link up with these two on a launch order. Sources close to the airlines now say that CityLine and Crossair will confirm on 19 May their intention to be the programme's launch customers with a joint 120-aircraft order, worth $1.2 billion, plus up to 120 options. Deliveries are due to begin in mid-2001. A final purchase decision will come later this year, subject to the approval of the airline boards.

Robinson says that a powerplant decision for the 728JET is imminent from a shortlist of the General Electric CF34-8D1, and the Pratt & Whitney Canada/Snecma SPW14. A decision on a flight control supplier is due this month.

The 30-seat 328JETis on target for European certification in February 1999, with US certification following a month later, according to Robinson.

Source: Flight International