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DORNIER 328JET: THE "REAL" REGIONAL JET?

By Norbert Burgner

"The Dornier 328 was earmarked from the beginning to fly as a jet. This is the type of aircraft that the market has demands for. By designing the aircraft as a turboprop, Dornier was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Fairchild Dornier, this will not happen to us again." These distinct words were said by Carl Albert who has been heading Fairchild Dornier since the take-over of the former Daimler-Benz subsidiary ten months ago. When presenting the new jet concept for the 30-seat regional airliner Albert didn't leave a doubt about his opinion on the history of the new company division: "We found out that weDornier 328JET could lay off 500 employees without losing efficiency. These were 500 employees from the management levels rather than from the production side." Was that a clear hint on a bloated company structure? Albert continues, saying that the manufacturer's production is highly efficient. He points out that while 8500 man hours are needed to assemble a 328 in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, the production of the small Metroliner at Fairchild's plant in San Antonio, Texas, requires approximately 15000 hours.

Carl Albert currently sees the main priority in minimizing the costs. After the througput times and material requirements have been reduced company-wide, and following the rationalization of the organizational flows, as well as, the efficient integration of both company divisions, the manufacturer can now concentrate again on its core business. Market conform products offered for attractive prices are to bring the company back into the profit zone for good.

Last year 1995's losses of more than half a billion DM were already reduced to DM 170 million. Albert expects a turnover in the amount of DM 850 million for the current business year and a result exceeding the billion mark scale for 1998.

The 328-Jet is to become a leading role in this forecasted upwind trend. With a price of $10,15 million for the twinjet, Albert intends to put pressure on established turboprops such as the ATR 42, de Havilland Dash 8 or Saab 340: "The negative attitude of passengers towards propeller driven aircraft is becoming more and more distinct. Even though this judgment does not do justice to the turboprop aircraft, we are not in a position to turn around this process. This fact, along with the competitive sales price and the given high economic efficiency, are arguments which the managers of today's regional airlines can't overlook."

The new jet from Oberpfaffenhofen will supposedly carry 30 to 34 passengers at speeds up to 700 km/h over distances up to 2222 kilometers. The turboprop engines will be replaced by two Pratt & Whitney Canada 306/9 turbofans, each generating 6053 lbs of thrust.

The higher cruise speeds, as compared to the turboprop version, are reducing the block times, such potentially increasing the frequencies on the various routes. Furthermore, destinations beyond the reach of a prop-driven airliner are coming into economical range of a jet aircraft. This fact gives the aircraft operators opportunities to open new markets - arguments with which Fairchild Dornier is backing its product philosophy.

According to Carl Albert, the performance and flight characteristics of the 328Jet, the first "real" regional jet, stand out from all competing airliners: "With this jet it will be possible to serve both, large hubs as well as small regional airports with a relatively short runway of approximately 1220 meter in length. Especially full-paying business travelers will be attracted by the aircraft's non-stop capability, offering the productivity and economical efficiency that is necessary to replace the 30+-seaters of the current turboprop generation."

Even though the jet version of the 328 will use up to 50 percent more fuel, this disadvantage in operating costs will supposedly be more than balanced by the lower maintenance costs and the relatively lower weight already on a 250-NM sector.

With just below ten Pfennig (5,9 Cents) per seat kilometer for a 300-NM sector, the manufacturer has calculated an advantage in operating costs of five percent as compared to the prop version's 10,54 Pfennig (6,2 Cent) per seat kilometer. According to the manufacturer's expectations, this economical margin will grow with each further route kilometer.

Albert expects a sales potential of 450 aircraft or 20 percent of the estimated need of 2294 aircraft in the 20 to 39 seat category until the year 2015. The Fairchild Dornier head is counting on the replacement process in the commuter market, which, in his opinion, will begin at the beginning of the next century. Fairchild Dornier is optimistic. The company is sure that "the 328Jet will set a new standard for regional airliners."

From page 34 of FLUG REVUE 5/97


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Last updated March 30, 1997