South Korea's four main competing aerospace manufacturers are discussing the formation of a joint-venture organisation to lead and co-ordinate the development of new indigenous projects and participation in larger international collaborative efforts.

The new company would bring together Daewoo Heavy Industries, Hyundai, Korean Air and Samsung Aerospace. It would act as a programme manager and subcontract manufacturing work to each of the four partners.

It is intended to revive the Korean Commercial-Aircraft Development Consortium (KCDC), which was originally established to spearhead the country's unsuccessful bid to participate in the Chinese AE-100 regional-jet programme. While KCDC never progressed beyond the committee stage, the new joint venture would be established as a separate legal entity.

"The idea is that it would be very much like a mini-Airbus structure," says a South Korean aerospace executive, adding that the talks are "still very preliminary".

The move follows the recent collapse of a Samsung-led effort to purchase Fokker Aircraft. The failure has been blamed on a lack of support from rival South Korean manufacturers and the South Korean Government's reluctance to back any particular manufacturer at the expense of the other three.

South Korea's aerospace industry has long been known for its in-fighting, which has hindered the development of some national projects. The planned development of the KTX-II jet trainer and South Korean Multi-Purpose Helicopter could now fall under the responsibility of the new joint venture.

In the wake of the failed Chinese and Fokker efforts, it is suggested that the planned joint venture's immediate priority would be to find a substitute commercial programme. Korean Air and Samsung are known to be looking at ways of reviving the KCDC's former counterpart to the Chinese AE-100, the K-100 passenger aircraft.

One possibility being discussed is to find new international partners to support development of a 100-seat aircraft. Suggestions include Indonesia, India or Russia. South Korean industry is also continuing to talk to Saab about a collaborative 70-seat development.

A joint South Korean industry team, made up of representatives from the four different companies, has in the meantime been dispatched to Europe on a "fact-finding mission". The team is to meet with Airbus Industrie to discuss a possible 5-10% risk-sharing stake in the A3XX, as well as to hold further talks with Aero International (Regional) on its new AIRJET regional-jet project.

Source: Flight International