Ruag books new orders for 228 NG

 - December 30, 2008, 4:45 AM

An undisclosed Australian regional airline has become the third customer to commit to Ruag Aerospace’s Dornier 228 New Generation program, placing an order for five of the 19-seat twin turboprops on December 5. Mexican Air Cancun already holds an order for two, and an undisclosed Japanese operator has signed for six; deliveries are slated to begin in December.

The 228 NG promises improved performance from a new powerplant–the 776-shp Honeywell TPE331-10–and new five-blade propellers. The cockpit features

a glass avionics suite, with an improved flight management system and a four-screen electronic flight information system from Universal Avionics, as well as radios and navigation equipment from Rockwell Collins.

The standard-equipped price for the 228 NG is ?5 million ($6.5 million). This includes all avionics other than a Bendix/King flight director/autopilot, ACSS TCAS 3000 and Universal TAWS.

The powerplant improvements for the new-generation version are covered by STCs and will be available for retrofit on earlier models. The new avionics suite is already certified, having been incorporated into a pair of 228s now in service with the Dutch coast guard.

Ruag is preparing to start final assembly of the first 228 NG before the end of March at its factory in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and is currently preparing tooling and rigs. All the main airframe sections and subassemblies are made by partner Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in India. The propeller, which weighs 77 pounds less than the original four-blader, is designed and manufactured by MT Propeller, another German company. Ruag has also replaced a number of minor parts around the airframe to further reduce weight and improve reliability.

HAL continued license production of the original Do-228 after production ceased in Germany in 1999. This past November, the European Aviation Safety Agency approved the Indian group’s production facilities.

Ruag Aerospace, part of the Switzerland-based Ruag group, holds the 1989 type certificate for the former Dornier aircraft, having bought it in 2003 from the administrator handling the bankruptcy of Fairchild Dornier. Ruag also performs maintenance, repair and overhaul support for the legacy fleet of 270 aircraft worldwide.

In late September, Ruag flew an aircraft for the first time with the new propellers. The flight-test program will continue into the third quarter, at which time final performance improvements will be ready to be formally incorporated into a revised operating manual for the aircraft.

According to Ruag Aerospace managing director Wolfgang Neumann, the new propellers have delivered much lower vibration and therefore reduced noise. The lighter propeller–described as being a “natural composite” formed from a wooden core with layers of carbon and bonded steel–is also less vulnerable to corrosion.

Early flight trials have shown improvements in the unpressurized aircraft’s speed and climb performance. The next phase of flight testing will focus on proving the 228’s airfield performance.

Mexican Air Cancun is set to receive its first aircraft late next year or early 2011, and it will use it for domestic services in the Yucatan Peninsula. The manufacturer believes that special mission applications–including business/utility roles such as carrying engineers and their equipment for oil exploration projects in locations such as South America and Norway–will account for approximately 40 percent of demand for the aircraft.

“Our conservative market analysis shows a total demand for roughly 1,000 aircraft over the next 10 years in the 15- to 19-seater market, and this is more [fleet] replacement than growth,” Neumann told AIN, adding that the average age of the aircraft up for replacement is more than 20 years. Ruag is confident that the 228 NG can win at least 10 percent of this sector, resulting in annual production rates of between seven and 10 aircraft over the next 10 to 12 years. The upgraded model is competing against existing twin turboprops such as the Britten-Norman Islander and the Viking Twin Otter.