Which airliner company do you like
«We believe that our aircraft is better than the ATR 42»
In December you presented your aircraft project in detail for the first time. How was the feedback on the D328 Eco?
Dave Jackson *: Very positive. In general, people in the industry are happy that new projects like ours are being pushed forward in these difficult times. A few potential customers got in touch and wanted to know more about the aircraft. But there were also suppliers who had previously worked primarily for Airbus and Boeing and had no capacity for further orders. Now it is suddenly interesting for them to also deliver to a smaller manufacturer. The event was also important in terms of recruiting. We were able to show that something new is emerging here, while jobs are being cut everywhere else.
Have you already received purchase confirmations?
No. That would be fantastic, of course, but unrealistic. For the first time, we presented detailed information on the D328 Eco, such as the ability to run 100 percent on sustainable fuel or, thanks to modern avionics, to be flown by a pilot at some point. Now potential customers have to take a close look at the details and, logically, they will first observe how the program is progressing. However, there are definitely expressions of interest, and we have formed a committee with potential customers who will help us with further development. We want to occupy one or two more seats.
How big do you estimate the market for the D328 Eco to be?
We see three market segments. The largest and most important is the replacement of aging turboprops with around 50 seats, for example Saab 340, Jetstream or the smaller Dash 8. They are usually more than 25 years old. We are talking about a potential of around 4,000 airmen. Another segment is Asia. In countries like China, India, Indonesia - an aircraft of our size and with our capabilities can serve smaller cities or islands. But there are also opportunities like this in the West - where there will be more ecological aircraft because the regulations on emissions are being tightened. The third segment is the special missions such as border protection, coast guards or ambulance transports. The Dornier 328 was very successful there.
This enables us to cover the largest market.
Thanks to its bio-kerosene capability, they emphasize the ecological aspects of the D328 Eco. Others are already going further and working on hydrogen planes. Could you do that too?
Yes, that would be possible. We look at that. It's not a completely new technology for the industry either. But in a first step we are relying on sustainable fuels, because it will be a long time before hydrogen is approved in aviation and an infrastructure for it exists.
They offer a 43 seater. Why didn't they stick to 33 seats like the Dornier 328 had?
This means we can cover the largest market - from 29 to 43 seats.
The D328 Eco's main competitors will be the ATR 42, perhaps the Indonesian Aerospace C-235, the new Ilyushin Il-114-300 and the Xian MA-60. Which one do you fear most?
ATR is well established, builds good aircraft and enjoys an excellent reputation. We are realistic about that. That will be our main competitor. But we believe that our aircraft is better than the ATR 42, not only because of the avionics and bio-kerosene capability. Our plane flies faster and higher and is therefore less susceptible to the weather. The other manufacturers mentioned offer older models, are still young or have only just been established in their regions. We can look back on a tradition with the legacy of the Dornier 328.
German engineering and German quality.
Then why don't you use the name Dornier?
Well-known brands have advantages and disadvantages. We have created the new Deutsche Aircraft brand, which describes everything we want to be: German engineering and German quality.
How much will the entire development cost?
We don't want to say that. But building an airplane always costs billions. However, we have the advantage that we do not start from scratch, but instead build on the basis of the Dornier 328. That makes it cheaper and faster.
The American defense and space technology company Sierra Nevada Corporation is your main investor, but you are looking for even more. Do you have success with it?
Yes, we have very good conversations. We are also looking for financial investors, but above all strategic investors who bring us not only capital but also know-how so that we can be even more successful. We also get support from the German state, of course.
The Dornier 328 was ahead of its time.
The industry is in a gigantic crisis. Is it a smart moment to showcase a new aircraft?
There is no such thing as an absolutely ideal time. We didn't just start in 2020, but a few years ago. The project is now concrete. And we are convinced that the Corona crisis and increasing environmental regulations will result in even better opportunities for our D328 Eco than two years ago.
Turkey wants to build a new turboprop, and Embraer is determined to do so. Would you also like to work with these companies?
No. We have our own program and are looking for partners who can complement us. In addition, Turkish Aerospace and Embraer are targeting a different market.
You build the D328 Eco on top of the Dornier 328. What do you like about this plane?
The Dornier 328 flies fast, it flies high, and it was ahead of its time. In addition, it can take off and land on unpaved runways and, as a high-wing aircraft, has stable flight characteristics. These are great assets that we benefit from.
The A320 is older than the Dornier 328.
Have you ever thought of developing a completely new airplane?
Not really. We wanted to build on the tradition of the Dornier 328. In addition, we are cheaper and faster that way. These are huge advantages. Few of the current aircraft are also completely new. Take the Airbus A320 Neo only. It is based on the A320 and it is older than the Dornier 328.
Why is Deutsche Aircraft building the aircraft in Germany - surely there are locations with lower labor costs?
On the one hand, because we want to build on Dornier's legacy. On the other hand, because we can find good experts and well-trained workers and suppliers here. There are in Germany, also because of Airbus. You also have to see: In aircraft construction, the workforce is not the biggest cost factor.
When will you present the first prototype?
We plan for 2023 or 2024.
2025 is absolutely realistic.
You plan to hand over the first D328 Eco to a customer in 2025. Isn't that very optimistic?
As I said, we didn't start from scratch. So that's absolutely realistic.
If your aircraft is a success, can you imagine extending the D328 EcoD328eco again to create even more space for passengers?
No. That would put us in a different class of aircraft. In addition, that would be so complex, then we'd better bring a completely new aircraft. But that is currently not an issue, now we are successfully launching the D328 Eco on the market.
* Dave Jackson studied Marketing Engineering in Huddersfield. The Briton then worked in various companies in the aircraft and auto industries. In 2007 he took over the management of 328 Support in Oberpfaffenhoffen, part of the American Sierra Nevada Corporation. The company supports Dornier 328 operators worldwide with spare parts, engineering and design solutions. Jackson also managed the TR Jet project, which was being promoted jointly with Turkey. With the start of the D328 Eco program, he became head of Deutsche Aircraft.
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