Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will explore the possibility of developing a regional airliner.
The company says it will conduct a feasibility study over the next two to three years. This could be followed by a two-year definition study, and potentially a seven year development cycle.
“The first flight is scheduled to take place about five years after the start of development,” says KAI.
The study will look at whether to develop a jet or turboprop. The project depends on “inter-Korean economic cooperation.” Overall, KAI foresees a potential market for 400 aircraft.
“Although KAI will get some essential components with overseas partners for risk sharing, KAI will take the lead in development,” it adds.
Should KAI develop a turboprop, it would likely compete against the ATR family, or the developmental AVIC MA700. Should it develop a jet, it would likely compete with the Embraer 175-E2 or the Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ70 and MRJ90.
South Korea explored the possibility of developing an airliner in the 1990s and 2000s. In the 1990s, it hoped to work with Beijing on a regional jet. This plan fell through and AVIC went on to develop the ARJ21.
In the 2000s, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) proposed an update to the Bombardier Q400. It believed that it could increase the aircraft’s speed by narrowing its fuselage, while also increasing the type’s capacity and reducing noise. Bombardier held talks with South Korea’s aerospace industry regarding the project, but these ultimately proved fruitless.
It is far from clear that inter-Korean links will improve sufficiently to justify and airliner programme. Relations between North and South Korea have improved under the presidency of South Korean Moon Jae-In, but economic and political links are extremely limited and subject to the whim of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
FlightGlobal Schedules indicates that there are no direct flights between North and South Korea, which technically remain in a state of war following the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo operates scheduled international services to four cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang, and Vladivostok.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Air Koryo operates 18 aircraft, most of which date from the Soviet era, with an average age of 30.2 years. South Korea’s airlines operate 369 aircraft with an average age of 10.6 years.
Seoul is eager to further develop its aerospace industry. KAI has already produced military helicopters, a basic trainer aircraft, and an advanced jet trainer, the T-50. KAI is in the midst of its most ambitious project yet, an advanced twin-engined fighter aircraft designated K-FX.