Fairchild Aerospace has sold 25 Envoy 7 executive variants of its new 728JET regional jets to US fractional ownership company Flight Options, giving the programme a boost to follow Lufthansa's recent launch order.

The San Antonio-based manufacturer is expected to announce the deal at the show, making Cleveland-based Flight Options the first publicly identified customer for the Envoy 7. Fairchild is understood to have sold the aircraft to at least one operator, the identity of which has not been revealed.

Flight Options' purchase of the 25 General Electric CF34-8D-powered business jets is estimated to be worth $750 million. The first Envoy 7 is tentatively scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2002, about six months after the baseline 728JET passenger twinjet is due for type certification.

The Envoy 7 will be equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank to extend the jet's range beyond the 4,250km (2,300nm) maximum of the planned increased gross weight version of the 70/85-seat jet. The business jet will be built in Germany alongside the 728JET and, like the smaller Envoy 3 business jet version of the 328JET, will be fitted out in San Antonio. It has a basic list price of $28.5 million compared with $27 million for the 728JET.

In an earlier interview, Fairchild executive vice-president Barry Eccleston forecast that 15-20% of all its aircraft sales would comprise executive jet versions. The company is targeting three main types of user - high net worth individuals, corporations wanting their own staff shuttle and fractional ownership schemes.

Flight Options began operating less than two years ago, offering the USA's first pre-owned aircraft fractional ownership scheme. It runs Cessna Citation II, Raytheon Beechjet 400A and Hawker 800 programmes and recently added its first Bombardier Challenger 601. Together with parent company Corporate Wings, Flight Options operates a fleet of 70 jets.

Source: Flight International