As Saab prepares to make its formal exit from the manufacture of regional aircraft, attempts to resurrect the production of Fokker jets are continuing.
Saab's official statement merely says that the company is examining the possible closure of its Saab 340 and Saab 2000 aircraft production lines, but a source says that the decision has already been made. The UK headquarters of the Saab Aircraft International marketing and sales operation will close on 31 December, with Washington, Stockholm and Sydney becoming an asset management organisation; Saab owns at least half of the 430 Saab 340s and 50 Saab 2000s in service.
Completing the current backlog of 11 340s and eight 2000s and closing down production in March 1998 will result in a further loss of SKr500 million (US$67 million) in 1998. 'This is considerably less than the losses each year for the last 15 years,' says a source. Saab's owner, the Wallenberg family holding company Investor, wrote off $198 million of accumulated regional aircraft losses last year, and the company still owes the Swedish government SKr1.5 billion ($200 million).
Meanwhile Jaap Rosen-Jakobsen, owner of Belgian regional VLM, has formed a company called Rekkof - Fokker in reverse - and bought the production tooling and jigs for the Fokker 70/100. He hopes to decide to relaunch production in mid-December.
'It makes a lot more sense than investing in a totally new project, which will be much more costly and doesn't give a competitive edge of any kind,' says Rekkof adviser Alexander ter Kuile, a former Fokker sales manager.