Years-long efforts to re-launch production of the Dornier 328 turboprop appear to be bearing fruit with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday between 328 Support Services, the German federal government, and the State of Saxony to establish a final assembly line for the D328NEU at Leipzig/Halle Airport. Neu means "new" in German. The project calls for the establishment of a new German OEM, namely DRA GmbH, as a subsidiary of U.S. commercial aerospace, defense, and space firm Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). Owned and managed by Turkish-American businesswoman Eren Ozmen and her husband Faith Ozmen, SNC has held the type certificate for Dornier 328 turboprop and its jet-powered counterpart since 2015 through its wholly-owned subsidiary 328 SSG.
The partners expect the program to create up to 250 new jobs at the new facilities in Leipzig and more than another 100 jobs at 328 SSG’s headquarters in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich. “Germany’s return to the design and building of a Part 25-category commercial aircraft is long overdue, and this new operation intends to create an aviation legacy founded on the heritage of an aircraft pioneer,” said Dave Jackson, managing director of 328 SSG and DRA. “[The expansion of the company’s locations in Germany and the formation of DRA] will enable us to manage future developments of the D328NEU aircraft and exploit future technologies and capabilities to produce a more efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly aircraft.”
SNC, which initially tried to revive Dornier production in Ankara in cooperation with Turkey’s transportation ministry, has committed to investing €80 million ($88.75 million) in DRA. The state of Saxony pledged some €6.5 million in start-up funds.
DRA reportedly will not manufacture an upgraded version of the Dornier 328 JET and its website features only a turboprop design, while repeatedly stating its environmental goals. “[The D328NEU will address] the needs and aspirations of future generations, for cleaner, safer and more efficient air travel—and protecting our planet,” it reads. “We aim to lead the way in clean and renewable energy with a smaller carbon footprint, getting more power from less to benefit operators and passengers alike.” The partners did not release any technical details of the future D328NEU, nor potential engines, noting only that they will announce updates to the program at the end of the first quarter of 2020. They plan to start deliveries of the D328NEU in 2023.