Skyway Airlines is seeking compensation from Fairchild Dornier over the manufacturer's decision last year to scrap the 428JET programme. It is also considering disposing of its current fleet of 328JETs as part of an impending selection of a new fleet of regional jets.

The Milwaukee-based carrier, a Midwest Express Airlines subsidiary, is evaluating the competing Bombardier CRJ200 and Embraer ERJ135/140/145 aircraft and plans to order 20 aircraft and a similar number of options. As part of this process, says Jeffrey Coons, Skyway director, "we're looking at whether we will continue operating the 328JET. A decision will be made in the next 15 to 30 days."

Fairchild and Skyway at the same time are going to arbitration in an effort to reach a settlement on compensation arising from the cancellation of the 44-seat 428JET last August. Four months earlier the airline had ordered five 428JETs, along with five additional 328JETs.

The German manufacturer scrapped the programme in the face of rising costs, pessimistic sales prospects and the need to focus on development of the larger 728/928JET. "Fairchild felt there was no market for the aircraft. We felt differently. It was a disappointing decision for us," recalls Coons.

As a result, Skyway has embarked on a search for a new regional jet to replace the 428JET, as well as possibly the 328JET. The carrier, which launched the 328JET, operates six of the 32-seat aircraft and is due to take a further two this year.

The carrier is looking at options to dispose of the 328JETs as part of its selection of a new regional jet. It wants to start taking delivery of the new aircraft early next year and accordingly "we may need to exit the 328JETs pretty quickly," says Coons.

In concert with the regional jet decision, Midwest Express is also expected to select a larger replacement for its fleet of McDonnell Douglas DC-9s and BoeingMD-80s. Fairchild had been hoping to sell the 728/928JET on the back of Midwest's 328/428JET purchase. "Our overall relationship with them is strained," admits a Fairchild source.

Midwest Express is expected to decide between the Boeing 717 and Airbus 318, with an order for 20 aircraft and another 30 options in contention.

Source: Flight International