The Fairchild Aerospace 328JET has gained European Joint Aviation Authorities certification, with US approval set to follow before the end of the month. The certification comes as the company moves closer to finalising a 110-aircraft contract from a US carrier, believed to be Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA).
The approval, delayed by four months, follows an 18-month flight test programme that involved four of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306B-powered regional jets flying for 1,100h. The delay was caused largely by problems with the aircraft's Dunlop braking system and Messier-Dowty shock absorbers.
These had to be redesigned to cope with the loss of propeller braking effects following the switch to turbofan power (the 328JET was developed from the Dornier 328 twin turboprop), which caused the configuration freeze to be delayed to the end of last year. Bad weather early this year also caused flight testing.
Deliveries have started of the first of up to 15 328JETs for launch customer Milwaukee-based Midwest Express Connection Skyway Airlines. The aircraft will be used for route proving before the start of scheduled services in October. The first European airline customer for the aircraft is Italian start-up Gandalf Airlines, which will take its first two of up to 12 in September.
Fairchild chief operating officer John Wolf has confirmed that an agreement has been concluded for up to 110 aircraft with an undisclosed US regional airline, widely believed to be ACA. The deal includes 25 firmly ordered 328JETs and 30 428JETs, plus 55 options for either. Washington DC-based ACA, a United Express feeder, is in talks with its pilots over the introduction of the jets, and this is holding up the deal's completion.
Meanwhile, Columbia, Missouri-based start-up Ozark Air Lines has placed a $25 million order for two 328JETs for delivery in September, to be used on services to Dallas and Chicago.