Fairchild Dornier is "open to negotiation" with aerostructures companies around the world over risk-sharing partnerships in its 50-seat 528JET regional-jet programme. The company has already secured a deal with Aermacchi to work on the fuselage, which will be stretched by 7m over the original Dornier 328 structure built in South Korea under contract to Aermcchi.

Partners are sought for the new wing, which will be radically different from the current design, with a sweep of 25¹ and an enlarged area of 51m2 (550ft2). Companies believed to be interested include AIDC of Taiwan, Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan and possibly Northrop Grumman. Fairchild Dornier is eager to sign up partners to offset the estimated $300 million development costs of the 50-seat jet, compared with those of the relatively straightforward 328JET now being developed, at an expected cost of about $100 million.

Engine selection for the 528JET is due to begin in July, with a decision around September, according to programmes and aircraft-development vice-president Earl Robinson. Powerplants under consideration include the Allison AE3007G, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308B and the embryonic AlliedSignal AS9000.

Fairchild Dornier declines to discuss details of the prospective candidates, although it is believed that the P&WC engine has the edge. The PW308B is in development for Raytheon's Hawker Horizon business jet, and its smaller stablemate, the PW306B, has already been selected for the 328JET. The Allison engine, although meeting all requirements, is said to be "too pricey" by programme sources, while AlliedSignal has yet to commit to the development of its new-centreline AS9000 engine. Mystery shrouds the true

nature of the proposed engine, which is believed to carry a $300 million development price tag. The engine's previous identity was the LF507-based AS908.

Preliminary design of the 528JET is to be completed around September and a go-ahead could be given "around 1 January, 1998", says Robinson. Development of the 32-seat 328JET, meanwhile, is on schedule for a first flight around the turn of the year. First deliveries are set for the end of 1998.

Source: Flight International