Fairchild-Dornier 728: The RJ that never quite made it

In the very early 2000s, Fairchild-Dornier were planning to try and make it big and create a family of regional airliners going from the 34-seat 328JET up to the 95-110 seat 928. The first new aircraft in this series to come about was the 70-85 seat 728, and the family was launched on the 19thMay 1998, with orders from Lufthansa Cityline and Crossair (who later cancelled their order due to the fuselage layout) for up to 120 aircraft. In August of the same year, Fairchild announced that General Electric’s CF34-8D engine would be the power-plant for the 728, instead of the Pratt & Whitney SPW-14.

Originally, the first aircraft were planned to be 728-100s, which would then be followed in 2003 by the longer-range 728-200. This would have had a 750km range advantage over the -100 with a 3000kg higher MTOW. The 728 had a very slightly larger cabin than any aircraft in its class, with a 51mm greater width than the E170/190 that would have served as a main competitior. This would have allowed for a 5-abreast cabin.

Soon after the 728-200, the 928 was expected to have its first flight towards the end of 2003, providing a longer cabin and increased wingspan but keeping the same flight deck as the 728, allowing for commonality with it and a planned shortened version, the 528. There was also a private jet version called the Envoy 7 which was expected to enter service in 2004 with an intercontinental range and “Super Shark” winglets. There was also a plan for an AEW&C variant.

The first prototype of the 728-100 made its official roll-out on the 21st March 2002, with the intent of making its first flight that Summer. However, this aircraft never got the chance as Fairchild-Dornier filed for insolvency only weeks later, terminating the program and causing the three partially-completed prototypes to be sold. The most complete aircraft, seen in the rollout and with most instrumentation already installed, was sold to the DLR (German Aerospace Centre) for cabin testing at the price of only 19,000 Euros, though this meant that the wings were cut off, leaving only stubs and destroying the most complete example. The other two incomplete and unpainted aircraft still stand in the locations they were left in; one in the former firm area of Dornier and one in Dresden.

This was not quite the end of the line however, as the Chinese D’Long group bought the project but this also fell through due to bankruptcy in 2004.

So, what are your thoughts on Dornier’s ambitious plans that never quite made it? Would it have been any good as an airliner? Does anyone else think it looks an awful lot like a Sukhoi Superjet?

Sources:

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=9268.0

http://www.aerospace-technology.com/projects/728jet/

http://www.airliners.net/aircraft-data/stats.main?id=214

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Dornier_728_family#928

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