Switzerland-based aviation and defence firm RUAG is to restart production of the Dornier 228 turboprop at the former Fairchild Dornier facility at Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.

Several carriers operate the original version of the 19-seat twin-engined aircraft including Kato Airline of Norway, Germany's LGW and Portugal's SATA.

Tentatively known as the Dornier 228 New Generation, the relaunched version will essentially have the same basic structure but will be fitted with digital avionics and "glass cockpit" instruments.

It will also have a five-blade propeller designed to improve performance and reduce noise compared with the four-blade variant.

RUAG was among the companies participating in the sale of Fairchild Dornier assets when the insolvent company was broken up and auctioned five years ago.

The decision to resume Do 228 production echoes a similar move by Canada's Viking Air to restart manufacture of the De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.

RUAG Aerospace Services managing director Wolfgang Neumann says t0he two companies have made similar predictions over market demand in the sector addressed by the Twin Otter and the Do 228.

He says a number of Do 228 operators - including regional airlines and special-mission users - have asked the company to relaunch the aircraft. "We've decided to restart Do 228 production," he says. "This is the basic decision. We have potential [interested] parties."

While he does not identify any possible customers, he says: "We would not, of course, start such a project without them."

The aircraft's fuselage, empennage and other structures will be manufactured by India's Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), where the 228 has also been assembled under licence. It will be fitted with Honeywell TPE331-10 engines. RUAG is working with Honeywell, Universal Avionics and Rockwell Collins for the avionics suite.

Final assembly will take place at Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, where the 228 was previously built by Dornier.

"We have taken over quite a lot of equipment for manufacture of aircraft [at the plant] but of course there is still some work to do," says Neumann. "That's part of the relaunch process."

Work on the first aircraft is expected to begin around mid- to end-2009 with delivery taking place in 2010. RUAG has yet to determine figures for production rates. Neumann says: "This is the next step."

Source: FlightGlobal.com