Turkey reveals details of new 32-seat jet

Last month’s announcement that US-based Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Turkish government for its subsidiary 328 to develop and build the country’s first regional aircraft certainly raised a few eyebrows.

At the Paris Air Show on Tuesday (June 16), the world got the chance to hear what lay in store for the project which will be undertaken by the newly formed TRJet, a company consisting of 328 and Turkish manufacturer STM, which will base aircraft production out of Ankara, Turkey.

Built around a modernised version of the Dornier 328, which SNC owns the intellectual property for after acquiring 328 in February, the 32-seat aircraft will be offered as both a jet-powered aircraft (the TRJ328) and a turboprop (T328).

The new regional aircraft is expected to take its first flight in 2019. Plans for a larger aircraft were also confirmed, with design and development of a new 50-70 seat passenger aircraft, known as the TRJ628, in the pipeline for a 2023 release. 

Since the confirmation of the MoU last month, some have questions the firm’s decision to invest in the 30-50 seat aircraft arena, a market that has dwindled to around 5,000 aircraft in recent years, as carriers have upgraded to larger jets.

Dave Jackson, managing director of 328, is convinced, however, that there is an opportunity for the TRJ328 and T328 to replace the current smaller regional global fleet and the firm plans to begin production at the Ankara facility in the next 18 to 24 months.

“There are nearly 5,000 active aircraft in the 30-50 seat market and our view is that those aircraft will eventually need to be replaced and not necessarily by bigger aircraft going into 70 to 90 seats,” he told MRO Network in an exclusive interview.

“There’s no obvious replacement available to airlines for these ageing aircraft and because there is little competition, and our new aircraft can exploit this opportunity.”

With a reported $1.5bn invested to set up the project, the ambition is certainly there, with 328 also confirming at Paris that it is talking to Pratt & Whitney Canada to supply engines for the two 30-50 seat aircraft.

Despite high hopes from the firm and the Turkish government that TRJet will crack the market and establish the country as a commercial aviation force, Jackson spoke of the need to adopt a cautious approach in the project’s early stages.

“We’re being deliberately modest because we don’t to over deliver so my expectation is that we’re safe with our predicted production numbers and over time I think we could outperform that,” said Jackson

A full interview about the TRJet project with 328 managing director Dave Jackson will appear on the MRO Network website next week.

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