Dornier 328 / 328JET
The Dornier 328 is a twin-engine turboprop regional airliner seating around 30 passengers. A further development is the Dornier 328JET powered by two turbofan engines.
The German aircraft manufacturer Dornier Luftfahrt GmbH began development of the Dornier 328 in the late 1980s, when the company was owned by Deutsche Aerospace (DASA). The new aircraft first flew on 6 December 1991, followed by entry into service in October 1993. Dornier was late with bringing a 30-seater to a market already crowded with competitors like the Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia, the De Havilland Canada Dash 8, the Saab 340 and the British Aerospace Jetstream 41. It was also the time of the emergence of regional jets like the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) and the Embraer ERJ-145. Dornier tried to conquer a place on the market by offering an aircraft with a higher speed than competing turboprops and a more comfortable and quieter cabin.
The high comfort level is achieved by an ovoid fuselage cross section which provides three-abreast seating (2+1). Less comfortable four-abreast seating is also possible. The 328's wing is a larger version of the supercritical wing of the earlier and smaller Dornier 228, which give the aircraft good cruise and climb performance. The wing is placed on top of the pressurised fuselage and the aircraft has a T-tail. The aircraft manufacturer gave much attention to streamlining to attain a high cruise speed. Dornier considered the use of aluminium-lithium in the fuselage structure, but the material was new, appeared expensive and resulted in a limited weight advantage of only 50 kg (110 lb). Therefore traditional aluminium was used instead, with the addition of composite materials where useful. The 328 is fitted with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW119A turboprop engines driving six-bladed Hartzell propellers. The 'glass' cockpit is produced by Honeywell. The undercarriage retracts into fairings at the underside of the fuselage.
The basic version is the Dornier 328-100, which was followed by the 328-110 with higher weights and more range. The 328-120 is a version with improved capabilities for short take-off and landing (STOL). A further improved version is the 328-130. The C-146A Wolfhound is a version built for the United States Air Force's Special Operations Command, which acquired seventeen of the type. Some Dornier 328s are used for search and rescue missions in Australia. Plans for a stretched version were rejected by DASA to prevent competition with the Fokker 50, because the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker was also part of DASA at that time.
The Dornier 328's comfort and high speed did not convince enough airlines to make the airliner a commercial success. The attention given to comfort and quietening the cabin made the aircraft more expensive than its competitors. In 1989 a promising contract was signed with Chicago-based Midway Airlines for 33 aircraft and 40 options, but the airline collapsed in late 1991 before deliveries started. Later, Horizon Air, a regional sister-airline of Alaska Airlines, became the biggest customer with an order for 35 (plus 25 options). Most other orders were in small numbers. 112 aircraft have been built.
- Dornier 328JET -
Because the market preferred jets over turboprops during the 1990s and because the Dornier 328 could easily be transformed into a jet airliner, Fairchild-Dornier launched the 328JET (formerly designated 'Dornier 328-300') in February 1997. A 328 turboprop was modified into a 328JET prototype with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306B turbofans and first flew as jet on 20 January 1998. Certification and first deliveries followed in July 1999.
The wing and undercarriage attachment frames had to be modified and only a few additional reinforcements were necessary. Its speed of 740 km/h (400 kts) is not much faster than that of the 328 turboprop and rather slow compared with jet-powered competitors, but the aircraft has a very good climb rate. It has already reached cruise height when other regional jets are still climbing.
In 1996 Dornier was taken over by the US company Fairchild Aircraft and subsequently renamed 'Fairchild-Dornier'. It continued the final assembly line in Oberpfaffenhofen, but because sales of the 328JET stagnated, Fairchild-Dornier couldn't finance the development of new versions and of the new 70-seat Dornier 728 jetliner project. The company went bankrupt in 2002.
AvCraft Aviation of Virginia acquired the rights of the 328 programme in March 2003, including the 328JET and 328 turboprop programmes, a number of 328JETs in various stages of assembly and the development work on a stretched aircraft, the 428JET. It restarted production of the 328, but filed for bankruptcy itself in 2005. Private equity investors took over the company and reformed it as M7 Aerospace. Production of new aircraft ended, however.
110 328JETs have been built, plus the ex-turboprop prototype. The corporate jet version is named 'Envoy'. ADAC in Germany flies a 328JET as an air ambulance and Lockheed Martin used a Dornier 328 as a demonstrator of advanced composite materials (ACCA = Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft) for the US Air Force. Lockheed reconstructed the mid and aft fuselage and the empennage with composites. The Do 428JET was a stretched 44-seat variant and the 528JET a 50-seater, but both versions never flew. The 428JET was officially launched in May 1998, but later cancelled.
Early in 2015 around 40 Dornier 328s and 10 328JETs are still in airline service. Other 328s are flying as corporate aircraft.
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