Dornier eyes cold comfort in Siberia

 - May 6, 2008, 4:49 AM

Insolvent German airframe builder Fairchild Dornier has turned to one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs in an attempt to save the foundering 728 and 928 regional jet programs. Basovy Element (Basic Element) director Oleg Deripaska, who along with Roman Abramovich controls some 75 percent of Russia’s aluminum industry, has sent a team of technicians from his Samara-based Aviacor group to examine the technical merits of the program, but a successful marriage between the unlikely bedfellows remains far from certain.

The potential deal has already drawn a firestorm of controversy in Russia, where the press has drawn parallels between Deripaska’s endeavor and a failed plan by former Yakovlev boss Alexandr Dondukov to buy the bankrupt Fokker and build Fokker 50s and 100s with Russian parts. Still widely known by its former name of Sibirsky Aluminum (Sibal), Basic Element does not deny its interest in the project, but has expressed displeasure with leaks to the Russian press and will not comment on the progress of negotiations. However, sources in Russia indicate that talks have reached the “highest political level.”

At issue, of course, remains the Russian government’s interest in many other indigenous regional aircraft programs. Although a link-up with Fairchild Dornier would reinvigorate the Aviacor factory in the Volgan city of Samara, it would also give Basic Element the most advanced and only Western-licensed regional jet program in the country, placing programs led