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in Air Transport / Features

All-change on the Turkish aero-design front

Posted 23 April 2018 · Add Comment

Turkey says it plans to design and build a brand-new passenger aircraft midway through the coming decade. But, asks Alan Dron, what does this mean for its previously announced intentions to revive a 1980s design?

The rapidly-expanding Turkish aerospace industry has undertaken multiple projects in recent years, from the Hürkuş military turboprop trainer to the A129 ATAK combat helicopter.
It is also developing many of the technologies required for a modern aerospace sector to successfully compete in world markets, and individual companies are now part of the international supply chains that provide components to the major aircraft manufacturers.
One area it has not yet tackled is the civil airliner market. That sector is now on the horizon – although a slightly distant one – with Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) chief executive, Temel Kotil, talking of developing a new-design “100-seat-plus” aircraft for the world market.
Kotil, the former head of Turkish Airlines, who took up his current role in 2016, said at the Dubai Air Show that TAI’s intention was to create a clean-sheet-of-paper design. Since then, he has talked in Turkey’s newspapers of an indigenously designed aircraft that would make extensive use of composites for both fuselage and wings and be powered by two as-yet-unspecified turbofans.
Speaking to the Turkish press, Kotil said that TAI planned to start the design of the new aircraft within the company’s current five-year plan.
He made the point, however, that a significant part of TAI’s design capacity was being taken up with the new Hürjet, a supersonic trainer and light attack aircraft for the Turkish Air Force. Other projects taking up manpower and design resources are a heavier version of the ATAK and a transport helicopter in the same class as the Sikorsky Black Hawk.
Turkey and the UK have also signed an agreement by which BAE Systems will supply technical and engineering assistance to TAI in developing a new-generation air superiority fighter, the TFX.
This heavy military workload, Kotil told Turkish newspaper Takvim, would take up much of TAI’s capacity for the next few years. However, by 2022, not only would many of these projects be coming to fruition, but working on them would have given TAI several hundred increasingly experienced engineers and technicians, who would then be able to turn their skills to the new airliner project.
The plans make no mention of the previously announced project to re-start production of the Dornier 328 in Turkey. In June 2015, the US-based Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced that it was forming a new Turkish subsidiary, TRJet, to serve Turkey’s newly announced regional aircraft project (RAP).
To do this, TRJet would produce a modernised version of the 30-seat 328, which went out of production after Dornier filed for bankruptcy in 2002. This would be a first step towards the production of what would become Turkey’s domestically built passenger aircraft, the TRJ628, a largely new design in the 50 to 70-seat class.
“We are confident that TRJet, working with our partners in Turkey, and the commitment and support of those involved in the Turkish RAP, will be successful in producing aircraft that changes the face of transportation in Turkey,” said SNC president, Eren Ozman, in a statement at the time.
Over following weeks, it emerged that initially turbofan, then turboprop, versions of the 328 would be produced, with the Turkish Government indicating an initial requirement for up to 50 aircraft, to be used to establish a network of domestic routes between secondary Turkish cities.
Further details emerged at 2016’s Farnborough International Airshow, when TRJet said that, along with TAI, it was developing initial agreements to support the RAP.
TRJet also announced a series of agreements with major suppliers for the new versions of the 328. These included plans for Pratt & Whitney Canada to use a new version of its PW127 engine to power TRJet’s TRP328 turboprop variant.
Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion avionics system was selected for both the turbofan and turboprop; Liebherr-Aerospace was to supply the aircraft’s air management system, while Heggemann would build the main and nose landing gear.
However, both TAI and SNC have declined to comment on the current status of the project.

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