Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

HORIZON AIR IS pressuring Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) to launch a stretched variant of the Dornier 328 regional turboprop. The Alaska Air Group subsidiary, which operates both the 328 and the de Havilland Dash 8, has made standardising on one large-turboprop type a priority, and is pushing DASA to commit to development of a stretched 328 - "the sooner the better", says vice-president, flight operations, Tom Gerharter.

Dornier is working on a stretched, 48-seat 328, but a launch depends on obtaining sufficient orders to gain approval from a so-far reluctant DASA board. Horizon has ten 33-seat 328s, with ten more on firm order, but will not take delivery of any additional aircraft until 1996, when it is to receive two. The US operator is believed to have a clause in the contract allowing it to return the 328s if DASA does not go ahead with a stretch of the aircraft.

Seattle, Washington-based Horizon is also pressing for reliability problems to be remedied. The airline was the 328 launch customer and, Gerharter says, underestimated the difficulty of introducing a new type. Reliability shortfalls, exacerbated by parts-availability problems, have resulted in a "considerable number" of flights lost, he says.

Problems include nuisance advisories on the Honeywell Primus 2000 engine-indication and crew-advisory system (EICAS), which can only be cleared by powering down the aircraft, causing departure delays. Inlet de-icing-boot reliability also had to be improved.

Horizon's early 328-100s will be upgraded to the latest -110 production standard by the end of 1995. The upgrade removes hot-weather operating limitations, while recent certification for take-off in 13mm of slush has removed cold-weather limits which had hindered Horizon, Gerharter says.

Other US 328 operators, Jetstream International and Lone Star Airlines, report reliability problems, but say they are pleased with the aircraft, which is popular with passengers. Jetstream has 13 -110s, and plans to take all 20 on firm order by the end of 1995. The airline reports problems with EICAS nuisance advisories. Lone Star, which has two -110s and plans to have four by the end of 1995, has not experienced the problem.

All three airlines say that the lack of a certificated simulator has been a major difficulty, requiring training to be performed in the aircraft. Jetstream has two 328s, one owned by Dornier, permanently assigned to training. The simulator in Berlin received German certification in mid-August.

Horizon has been pushing for certification of the Flight Dynamics head-up guidance system on the 328, to permit low-visibility operations. Category II certification is now due in late October.


Source: Flight International