Paul Lewis/SAN ANTONIO
Fairchild Aerospace plans to announce a $1.5 billion launch order for the 428JET regional jet, along with additional 328JET sales, at the Paris air show. The company has refused to identify the customer, but it is widely believed to be US carrier Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA).
San Antonio-based Fairchild claims to have an order and option backlog worth $6.7 billion. Lufthansa's purchase of 60 728JETs with 60 options accounts for $3.2 billion.
"We have an unannounced 328/428 customer in North America that I believe approaches another $1.5 billion," says Fairchild president Jim Robinson.
United Express carrier ACA is known to have been looking at the 328/428JET family as a replacement for its 32 British Aerospace Jetstream 31 19-seat turboprops initially and, eventually, for its 28 larger Jetstream 41s. The ACA deal is thought to be for 50 jets and a similar number of options, but it is contingent on some issues being settled. These includes the disposal of its predominantly BAe Asset Management-controlled Jetstream fleet, some of which ACA is permitted to transfer to sister carriers. ACA is also watching closely United's efforts to renegotiate scope clause agreements with pilot unions, which it wants raised from the current ceiling of 65 regional jets seating 50 or fewer passengers to around 270 aircraft.
Fairchild says the 31/34-seat 328JET and stretched 42/44-seat 428JET are competing for four major airline orders, each in excess of 25 aircraft, plus options. "We're seeing a resurgence in people looking at below 50 seats, probably because the Embraer ERJ-135 and 328JET are flying," says Robinson.
Ongoing campaigns include Comair and Skywest, which are evaluating the 328/428JET and competing ERJ-135 as an Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia replacement. Comair has said it wants to go to an all-jet fleet by 2001. Air Wisconsin is regarded as a potential 328JET operator, either as a complement or replacement for its 13 328-110 turboprops.
The 7,400lb-thrust (30kN) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308B turbofan is the nominal baseline engine to power the 428JET when its enters service in early 2003, but Fairchild says it has begun to look at alternatives. Also under study is the AlliedSignal AS977, General Electric CF34 and Rolls-Royce AE3007.
Source: Flight International