Fairchild Aerospace has reached agreement with 728JET launch customer Lufthansa CityLine to slip certification and first deliveries of the 70-seater by six months to November 2002. The delay will enable it to increase the size of the passenger cabin by relocating the rear doors.

Fairchild says the decision to move the doors was taken at the 728JET critical design review meeting after the German airline agreed to the delay, as long as it would still receive eight aircraft in time for its summer 2003 timetable. Fairchild had been due to deliver the first of the regional jets in May 2002.

"We proposed it to Lufthansa and they said yes," said Fairchild executive vice-president sales and marketing Barry Eccleston at the show. "If Lufthansa had said they wanted to maintain the original timetable then we would have done so," he adds.

The manufacturer says the 728JET airline advisory group asked it to move the doors rearwards to accommodate an extra row of seats, using space allocated for "return catering". This had been specified by one-time potential launch customer Crossair, which chose Embraer of Brazil to supply its regional jet fleet instead.

Lufthansa CityLine, bound by its pilots' scope clause, will maintain its 70-seat layout for the 728JET,but with a greater seat pitch. The extra cabin space, however, will allow Fairchild to offer the aircraft as up to an 85-seater to other airlines.

San Antonio, Texas-based Fairchild says it is taking advantage of the extra six months made available in the 728JET development programme to introduce other improvements, including changes to the fuselage "loft line" which will raise the cabin ceiling by 50mm (2in) to 2.1m.

Also being added is a Boeing 777-style "boat tail" cone.

Other minor external aerodynamic modifications centre on the wing root, leading-edge slats and flaps. General Electric plans to introduce minor improvements to the aircraft's CF-34D engines.

On the larger 928JET the rear doors will also be relocated , but a short section of the centre fuselage will be removed to comply with European Joint Aviation Authorities certification regulations, which limit the maximum distance between adjacent emergency exits to 18.3m, according to Eccleston. Maximum seating capacity of this variant will remain at 105passengers.

As a result of this work, certification and first delivery of the 928JET has been pushed back from November 2003 to February 2004.

The 728JET's baseline configuration has been frozen and critical design reviews of the hydraulics, avionics and flight control systems are due in the next few weeks.

Source: Flight International