After announcing the formation of Turkey's TRJet at the Paris Air Show, Dave Jackson, managing director of project partner 328 Support Services, spoke with James Pozzi about its plans for the regional jet market.
The announcement of the new TRJet garnered a lot of attention at Paris. Was this surprising?
The show has been surprisingly successful because being truly honest; there was a lot more interest in the project than we had expected or imagined, and is this interest is genuine. There’s an emotional attachment alongside a historic interest in Dornier as a famous aircraft company. The Dornier 328 is a very good aircraft and many people couldn’t understand why it ever disappeared. There a genuine exciting for our programme, which is modest but realistic and operating on a sensible timescale.
Why was the decision taken by Sierra Nevada Corporation and its subsidiary 328 to specifically target the 30 to seat sector?
There’s a shortage of competition in that area. In the 30 to 50 seat sector, with the exception of ATR, there are not many companies making aircraft and it’s precisely for this reason that we see an opportunity. In the 30 to 50 seat sector turboprop jet, with around 5,000 aircraft still flying today from various manufacturers, there’s no obvious replacement. But these aircraft are being flown for a reason; they serve a need, capacity, route, load factor or whatever it might be. We see an opportunity exploiting the market, and with little competition, we see that as a benefit to not entering, say, the highly crowded and competitive 120 plus seats arena. So this is the market we see for our business.
You have spoken about taking a modest approach to the project but also the opportunity of a lack of competition in the 30 to 50 seat arena. What are the growth targets of the TRJet programme?
The TRJ328 will be back into production fairly quickly with the upgrades that we’ve envisaged. The TRJ628 – our 50 to 70 seater – also serves a youthful market niche. We’re being deliberately modest because we don’t want to over promise on what we can deliver. My expectation is that we are safe with what we’ve predicted and I think we could maybe outperform over time. But it’s important that in front of the industry and vendors, we retain a grounded approach both for the supply chain and customer base. We’re aiming to build four to five aircraft in the next two years as prototypes and demonstrators. In four to five years’ time we want to move to a production capability of 20 to 30 aircraft a year.
What can you tell us about the supplier process for the project?
The existing 328 already has an established vendor supply base, and we’ll be looking to work with this for our version as necessary, which includes Pratt & Whitney. In regards to the 628, the opportunity is there to leverage existing supply relationships on the 328 with vendors, although we need to make this cost competitive by looking for the right technical solutions.
How will 328 go about approaching maintenance partners for the project?
There are a number of MRO shops in Turkey, Europe and the US doing maintenance either for their own fleet or on a third party basis. We’ll continue to promote our own services while supporting the services of independent MROs. We’ll potentially look to appoint service centres to support the new fleet as that expands globally. This includes service centre capability in Asia, while in the US we’ll support that through our own Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in-house capabilities. We’ll look to have arrangements with standalone companies already successful in their field. Maintenance is already a competitive field so we’ll look to work with strong and established partners.
The TRJet facility will be in Ankara, Turkey. Do you anticipate any challenges with finding the right level of skilled labour for the project?
Being at the start of the journey, we’ve already carried out some assessments and of course, SNC already has an established presence in Turkey with operating companies. You just need to look at the success of companies like Turkish Technic. Turkey has a well-established aviation community and in addition to that, there are a lot of Turkish ex-pats working abroad for the large OEMs that we would hope to attract to come home to Turkey and work on this project. There’s also a lot of engineering capability in the country, that isn’t necessary aviation related, but they can make a crossover from automotive, for example.
TRJet intends to export the aircraft beyond Turkey. Which markets will it target?
In the 30 to 50 seat replacement market, we see this being global in both developed and emerging regions. The special mission market is also a discrete and specific opportunity. The emerging market will be particularly receptive to the 328 and 628 because of their performance characteristics – the unimproved runway capabilities and short fuel performance, to name but two. We would hope to increase our footprint in emerging markets as a percentage of our stored fleet, but we’re not precluding the replacement opportunities in the developed markets either.
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