As anticipated recently, the former Dornier 328 turboprop will be back in production in Germany thanks to an initiative involving 328SSG company, the German government and the state of Saxony, where the aircraft assembly line will be located.
328SSG holds the certification rights of the aircraft and is owned by the Sierra Nevada company, known among other initiatives for selling Embraer’s Super Tucano in the US. The aim of the program is to relaunch the new-name turboprop, D328NEU, from a plant to be set up at Leipzig Airport with the first units being delivered in 2023.
DRA company will be responsible for the production, which intends to hire 250 employees. The group, however, did not detail what the revised version of the turboprop 328 will look like. However, the company stated that “exploit future technologies and capabilities to produce a more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly aircraft.”
The move is being seen as the return of a genuine German aircraft maker, although Airbus has some of its production in the country.
With a capacity of 33 passengers, the 328 was a turboprop that arrived late in the ATR-dominated commuter market, with other players such as Bombardier, Embraer, British Aerospace and Saab.
Created by Dornier in the 1980s, the high-wing aircraft only flew for the first time in 1991 and went into service two years later. In almost a decade of production, 220 units were delivered.
In 1996, Dornier was sold by Deutsche Aerospace to Farchild Aircraft, creating Farchild Dornier. The new company took over the 328Jet project, a jet variant of the aircraft equipped with two PW306 turbofans. With this proposal, the model had 110 orders and the company even studied extended versions, the 428Jet and 728Jet.
However, in 2002, the manufacturer went bankrupt and its estate was acquired by the company AvCraft Aviation that even delivered some units before being transformed into another company, M7 Aerospace.
It was at this time, in 2006, that 328 Supoort Services GmbH, from Germany, eventually bought the aircraft design rights in order to assume responsibility for the support and maintenance of the active fleet.
The German company studied relaunches of the aircraft, including a partnership with Turkey, but only after being acquired by Sierra Nevada were plans to resume production.
It is too early to say that the decision is right, but in fact it is a forgotten segment in regional aviation today. Only ATR has a near-capacity aircraft, the ATR 42, still larger than the Dornier 328.
DRA, however, has a promising design in its hands. The 328 was a fast and quiet commuter plane, demonstrating the possibilities of an advanced variant.