Fairchild-Dornier 328Jet (FRJ)
The Fairchild Dornier 328 turboprop was designed by Fairchild Dornier, a division of Fairchild Aerospace, at the company's facility in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. It entered service in 1993 and established itself as the premier turboprop in the 30-seat class.
In February 1997, Dornier launched a program to build the third-generation 328 aircraft, the 328Jet, a two engine, 32-34 passenger regional jet, adapted from Dornier's popular 328 turboprop. The Fairchild-Dornier 328Jet was derived from the Dornier 328 turboprop featuring two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306B turbofans instead of the turboprops. Next to the engines, only slight modifications to the landing gear and wings were required to convert the Dornier 328 into the 328JET model, allowing Fairchild-Dornier to bring the 328 Jet to market relatively quickly.
The 328Jet was able to operate from short runways (4,000 feet), enabling small communities with low traffic to receive scheduled jet service for the first time. With a price of approximately $11 million, Fairchild anticipated that its 328Jet would be an ideal replacement for first generation 30-seat turboprops such as the Saab 340 and Embraer's Brasilia.
With the completion of the development, the Do 328 line was sold from Daimler Chrysler Aerospace to Fairchild in 1998. On January 20, 1998, the 328Jet made its first flight and it was expected to enter service by March 1999, as the world's smallest regional jet. It had a cruising speed of 460 miles per hour and a range of 900 nm, although an extended range version capable of 1,200 nm was being designed. The US launch customer was Dallas based Aspen Mountain Air, an American code-share partner at DFW, which has firm orders for four and options for four. Mountain Air Express, United's new partner at Denver, which operated Domier 328 turboprops, was also said to be an acquisition of the 328Jet for its fleet expansion. According to the manufacturer, the 328Jet's direct operating costs per seat mile were 12.64 cents on a 200-nm segment versus 12.46 cents for the 328 turboprop. As the segment length increases, the economic benefits of the jet do as well.
The 328JET, the world's first 32-seat regional jet, was flown by operators in Europe, the U.S., China, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim. It featured the widest and tallest passenger cabin among regional jets, and boasted a modern flight deck with the Honeywell Primus 2000 avionics suite. The Fairchild Aerospace 328JET was the world's first wide body regional jet, offering more space per passenger than other regional jets. In addition to more than 6 feet of stand-up headroom, the 328JET cabin offers the widest aisle in its class, and ample shoulder and legroom for unrivaled passenger comfort. There is a walk-in lavatory, a full-service galley, and a quiet cabin interior.
In December 1999 the German insurer Allianz A.G. and the United States investment group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc. bought the Fairchild Aerospace Corporation for $1.2 billion. The deal included a $400 million cash injection into the privately held aircraft manufacturer and $800 million in debt financing from a consortium of German commercial banks and other institutions. Fairchild was expected to use the funds to develop a new generation of aircraft. The company made a 32-seat jet and was developing a 44-seat version and a new generation of 50- to 105-seat jets. Fairchild had been courting potential investors since it scrapped a $300 million bond offering because of weakness in the financial markets.
Fairchild Dornier's well-publicized troubles were exacerbated when Atlantic Coast Airlines canceled orders for 32 aircraft in mid-2002.
Fairchild/Dornier 428 Jet
Fairchild/Dornier launched its 428 Jet program to produce a stretched version of the 328 Jet, with 44 seats. The estimated price of the 428 Jet, which was expected to enter into service in 2000, would begin at $12.5 million. The 44-passenger 428JET was being developed with Israel Aircraft Industries as a strategic partner for engineering, fabrication, and assembly of the new model. IAI will also direct the FAA/JAA certification process. Under the aircraft family concept, major systems and components of the 328JET and 428JET are the same, giving the operator greater efficiency, lower training and support costs, and enhanced flexibility.
On May 1, 2000 Fairchild Aerospace announced at the Regional Airline Association Annual Meeting that it had received additional firm orders and options for 15 328JETs and five 428JETs, valued in excess of $255 million. At that time the 328JET was being flown by operators in Europe, the U.S., China, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim.
The Program was terminated in August 2000.
Fairchild Dornier Insolvency
In April 2002, Fairchild Dornier filed for insolvency under German law, a move similar to entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. The corporation had accumulated a debt of $670 million. The court appointed Fairchild Dornier filed bankruptcy administrator determined that the company would have to be sold in pieces. Fairchild/Dornier entered into bankruptcy and sold the rights to its aircraft. programs to various investors in early 2003. Fairchild Dornier's assets went to AvCraft (Virginia, USA), RUAG Aerospace (Switzerland) and M7 Aerospace (Texas, USA). The creditors' committee approved administrator Eberhard Braun's plans to sell the 328JET regional jet production line, and customer support for the existing 82-strong fleet, to the US manufacturer Avcraft.
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