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​Programme partner outlines production plan for modernised 328s

Serial manufacturing of modernised aircraft based on the Dornier 328 is scheduled to begin at a facility near Turkish capital Ankara in 2018.

Setting out the production plans at the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly, 328 Support Services managing director Dave Jackson forecast that the rate of output would reach 20-25 per annum circa 2021.

A subsidiary of Sierra Nevada, 328 Support Services is the type certificate holder and major partner in a programme that entails the 32-passenger TRJ328, a turboprop-powered T328 and larger, 50-70-seat TRJ628 and TR628 versions.

"We're making good progress in Turkey," says Jackson. "We've identified a site where we'll be building the aeroplane, in Ankara. We're working closely with the Turkish government on the initial order for 50 aeroplanes, and we've more or less defined what those aeroplanes will be."

To be located on a greenfield site at an existing airfield, the Turkish facility will initially operate in parallel with production activity in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. But after staff have been trained during this interim phase, all of the manufacturing will ultimately be transferred to Turkey, Jackson confirms.

He indicates that the focus today is on working with the original Dornier 328 vendors to restart production. "As we work through reactivating the supply chain, we're getting more confidence that our production target of first delivery at the end of 2017, early 2018, will be on schedule."

Next year, he says, four prototypes will be readied. These will be modified versions of Dornier 328s built when the type was last in production, and will variously be used to check for parts obsolescence and to model new avionics and the turboprop engine, with one of the aircraft being held in reserve.

Subsequently, an initial batch of five production aircraft – all of them jets – will be manufactured in Oberpfaffenhoffen, starting at the end of 2016 or early in 2017.

Jackson indicates that either Rockwell Collins or Honeywell will be selected to supply the new cockpit systems. "We're in that process at the moment," he says.

Pratt & Whitney Canada is to supply upgraded PW306B engines to power the TRJ328. The programme partners are still to decide whether to stick with the PW119 for the turboprop version. "We want to increase the payload of the turboprops to be the equivalent of the jets," says Jackson. "We're looking at whether we need a bit more power in the engine."

Beyond the Turkish government's initial order for 50 of the jets, potential customers have made enquiries spanning an additional "30 to 40" aircraft, says Jackson. By the Farnborough air show next year, "that will be firming up to something more interesting", he predicts.

Jackson argues that there is "no obvious replacement" for the 30-50-seat turboprops and small jets still in operation after 20-plus years Jetstream 41s and Saab 340s among them. "If it held true that there's no market for these aeroplanes, I would have expected those to have been phased out long ago," he says.

He sees turboprops as the "obvious aeroplane" for the regional sector, given their economics. Of the 250 aircraft being targeted "as a reasonable production run", the mix will likely be 50 jets and 200 turboprops, he says. However, it is "easier" to start with the jet, which is also the version required by Turkey.

Of the planned larger TRJ628/TR628 versions, Jackson says a recent workshop involving industrial designers and certification engineers yielded "definition of what the green aircraft will look like". The next stage involves market research. "We hope to have the first type example by 2023," says Jackson.

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