By Craig Hoyle at Farnborough

Production line to reopen as Alenia Aermacchi waits for M-311 and M-346 orders

Alenia Aermacchi is to re-open its production line for the MB-339 advanced jet trainer, in anticipation of fresh business for the 30-year-old aircraft, says chief executive Carmelo Cosentino.

Announced during last month's Farnborough air show following recent interest from three existing MB-339 operators, the production restart will provide vital work at the Italian company's Venegono site near Milan until production of its new M-311 and M-346 trainers begins to ramp up later this decade.

Nigeria last month signed an $84 million contract to upgrade 12 of its MB-339As to the enhanced CD configuration, and the Italian air force has also shown interest in modernising several of its A-model aircraft, Cosentino says. The company is also "in the final stages" of negotiating a contract to manufacture eight new MB-339CDs for Malaysia, he adds, marking a successful conclusion to a campaign to convince Kuala Lumpur to boost its current MB-339A fleet through a follow-on purchase (Flight International, 3-9 January).

Cosentino, meanwhile, cites Australia, Chile, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the UK as potential near-term customers for the M-311, and forecasts a production run of up to 350 of the aircraft by 2030. Alenia Aermacchi's first prototype M-311 will make its debut flight in mid-2007, and production deliveries could start during 2008, he says.

Also anticipating a strong orderbook for its M-346 advanced trainer, Alenia Aermacchi has announced plans to manufacture a low-rate initial production batch of 12 aircraft to be available for customer delivery from late 2008, says general manager Massimo Lucchesini. The company will soon begin ordering long-lead components for the aircraft, which will initially be offered to meet Italian air force requirements, he says.

Source: Flight International