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PARIS: Turkish regional aircraft may feature P&W engines

Plans for regional aircraft development and production in Turkey have been laid out by 328 Group, including the likely selection of engine suppliers and a first tentative order for 50 jets.

Disclosed in late May, the new programmes the 32-seat T328 and TRJ328 are based, respectively, on the existing Dornier 328 turboprop and jet aircraft, for which 328 Group holds the intellectual property. Delivery of the first modernised examples of the legacy types is due in 2018.

One of two further clean-sheet, 50-70-seat designs – the jet-powered TRJ628 and TR628 turboprop is scheduled to perform its first flight in 2023.

The development is part of a memorandum of understanding signed by 328's parent Sierra Nevada and the Turkish government, alongside local manufacturing partner STM.

Speaking to Flightglobal at the Paris air show, 328 Group managing director Dave Jackson confirmed talks with Pratt & Whitney Canada to supply its 2,500shp-class PW127 turboprop and the latest variant of its PW306B engines for the two updated aircraft. The new turboprop powerplants raise maximum take-off weight by 1.5t to 15.6t.

In addition, discussions are ongoing with avionics suppliers Honeywell and Rockwell Collins over the addition of a glass cockpit for the types.

The changes, says Jackson, will "future-proof these aircraft for the next 30-40 years".

An initial tentative commitment for 50 examples of the jet variant has been struck with the Turkish government, he says. Talks are also ongoing with potential customers for the turboprop, he adds.

These will be assembled at a Turkish facility to be set up "in the next 18 to 24 months".

Further ahead, it is hoping to select Pratt & Whitney to provide geared turbofan engines – in a similar thrust class to the 15,000lb-thrust PW1200Gs powering the Mitsubishi Regional Jet – for the TRJ628 and PW127s for the turboprop.

The latter models will feature an all-new, part-composite fuselage and wing, with the engines the only difference between them. This should simplify the production process, says Jackson.

Although the market for 50-seat types has dwindled in recent years, Jackson points to the number of aircraft in the segment that are still in operation around 5,000 as a sign that there is still a requirement for models with that seating capacity.

"Those aircraft continue to be operated because there's a need and an niche for them, but there's not an obvious replacement for airlines.

"When you see 50-seat jets phased out, it is because they have reached the end of their lives rather than because they are no longer required," he says.

All models will be certificated by the US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency "from the outset", says Jackson.

However, he sees additional markets in the developing world or for special-mission operations, where an ability to operate from unpaved strips is key.

Overall, Jackson believes orders can be secured for around 250 examples of both the modernised and clean-sheet developments.

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