Reborn Dornier Do-228 fills versatile roles in airline livery

 - October 27, 2010, 6:15 AM

Ruag Aviation has delivered its first modernized 228NG twin turboprop to launch customer New Central Airservice. The delivery was made in late September, just a few weeks after the manufacturer received European certification for the aircraft.

The 19-seat 228NG began commercial services connecting Tokyo with several offshore islands that have short runways. New Central Airservice has been operating three original Dornier Do-228-212s for the past 10 years and may replace them with Ruag’s upgraded version. “We are satisfied with the Do-228. It is an excellent aircraft and ideal for the demanding geographic conditions on site,” said airline owner Tetsuro Mori.

By year-end Ruag expects to have made a second delivery, to Norwegian Lufttransportation, a regional airline that carries passengers and freight to the unprepared runways of Norway’s offshore.

According to Ruag Aviation CEO Dr. Peter Guggenbach, approximately 150 of the original Dornier Do-228 are in service today. The type has been out of ­production since 1999. Ruag, which in 2003 bought Dornier’s Aircraft ­Services division out of bankruptcy along with the Do-228 type certificate, is looking to tap the replacement market.

In addition to passenger services to locations that can be accessed only via short or unprepared runways, the 228NG is also being proposed for light cargo operations and various special-mission applications. In September, Ruag won a contract from the German Navy for an aircraft that will be used to monitor oil pollution in the German sectors of the North and Baltic Seas. The airplane is to be delivered late next year.

The 228NG also has potential business applications. For example, Ruag is in talks with mining companies needing to take engineers and equipment to remote areas. In this respect, it could be an alternative to the de Havilland Canada Twin Otter and Cessna Grand Caravan.

“It has an old-fashioned cabin that is high and wide, rather than round, and the benefit is that it can be used to carry lots of different things, including equipment and parachutes,” Guggenbach told AIN. For special missions, the 228’s somewhat long and bulbous nose is another advantage since it can accommodate additional electronic units, cameras and sensors.

According to Guggenbach, Ruag is in negotiations with as many as 50 prospective operators. Some of them are based in remote regions of Asia and other parts of the world.

“There are many opportunities [for the 228NG] because there are so many aging aircraft out there,” he said. “Some customers are trying to extend the life
span [of the Do-228-212s] by doing overhaul work, but some of the airplanes are very old and sooner or later they will have to be replaced.” Ruag also offers upgrades to existing Do-228s.

Hindustan Aeronautics in Kanpur makes aerostructures for the 228NGs–mainly the belly and parts of the wing. These are transported to Ruag’s facility at Oberpfaffenhofen in southern Germany for assembly. Guggenbach said Switzerland-based Ruag is successfully using the production process originated by Dornier.

With an upgraded powerplant based on the Honeywell TPE331-10 engine and five-blade MT-Propeller composite props (which weigh 77 pounds less than the originals), the 228NG has a maximum speed of 234 knots and range of up to 450 nm. The aircraft’s max takeoff weight is now 14,100 pounds and it can carry a payload of up to 4,850 pounds.

Foremost among some 350 improvements to the original Do-228 is the 228NG’s Universal Avionics EFI890 glass cockpit. The powerplant upgrades 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 for retrofit, having been incorporated into a pair of Do-228s now in service with the Dutch coast guard. Ruag has made other changes to reduce weight and improve reliability.

The price for a standard aircraft (not including any fittings or equipment for various special-mission applications) is €5.7 million ($7.9 million).