Fairchild Dornier has unveiled the first 328JET prototype at Oberpfaffenhoffen, and is to begin trials this month.
The aircraft has been created by the conversion of the second Dornier 328 turboprop prototype. Its first flight is due on 20 January, weather permitting, says Fairchild Dornier president Jim Robinson.
The first start-up of the aircraft's new 27kN (6,000lb) take-off thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306B turbofans is due on 15 December, and engine ground runs and taxi trials will begin immediately afterwards. High-speed windtunnel tests have now boosted the expected cruise speed of the 328JET from 375kt (690km/h) to 400kt.
A second, new-build prototype is now in final assembly: the fuselage has already been mated with the wing and all-composite tail section, and electrical tests have been carried out. The fuselage is now manufactured by Italy's Aermacchi in partnership with OGMA of Portugal, following the termination of earlier co-operation with South Korea's Daewoo.
The manufacturer holds 17 firm orders and 15 options for the aircraft, including a contract for six from French launch customer Proteus Airlines, and four more with four options from Aspen Mountain Air. The other customers remain unannounced.
Negotiations are also under way on two major orders for up to 180 aircraft, and the manufacturer expects decisions on these contracts within three months. While Fairchild Dornier declines to name the customers, industry sources confirm them to be AMR Eagle and Continental Express. The odds appear to be against Fairchild Dornier, as both airlines are customers of Brazilian competitor Embraer. Chairman Carl Albert nevertheless remains optimistic of winning one of the contracts with the 30-seat aircraft.
The company hopes to announce go-aheads on the 70-seat X28JET and the stretched 40- to 43-seat 428JET in early April.
Fairchild Dornier has cut its annual costs by $58 million to date, and expects to exceed its $115 million cost-cutting target in 1999.