Fairchild Dornier announced its 328JET launch customer yesterday with a $70million order for six aircraft from French regional carrier Proteus Airlines.
Simultaneously, it revealed the aircraft's North American launch customer as Aspen Mountain Air, in a $50million order covering four firm orders and four options for the 32-seat regional airliner.
A clearly delighted Fairchild Dornier president Jim Robinson, announcing the news, indicates a third order could emerge by August out of current negotiations with three airlines in Europe and North America.
He says the decision will be a clear-cut yes or no, and not a delayed one for evaluation of competition in the shape of the EMB-135. "We're not in competition," he says.
Dijon-based Proteus currently operates two turboprop Dornier 328s in the colours of Air France/Air Inter express, as well as its own livery, to destinations which include Marseille, Paris, Lyon and three destinations on the island of Corsica.
Deliveries of the new aircraft will start in the northern spring of 1999.
The aircraft will be used on domestic sectors, as well as intra-European routes under the Air France franchise.
Aspen Mountain Air currently operates five 328s and six Fairchild Metros on long-range routes, including Aspen, Knoxville and Chihuahua, from its Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas, base.
Firm orders for eight additional Dornier 328 turboprops were also included in the transaction. Five will be delivered this year, the remaining three in 1998. The 328JET deliveries will begin in 1999.