Avro RJs get new life as corporate steeds

 - December 7, 2006, 10:01 AM

BAE Systems is making another push to promote executive and corporate shuttle  applications for its out-of-production 146/Avro RJ series of regional airliners.
The UK group’s regional aircraft division manages a lease portfolio of up to one hundred fifty 146s and the later Avro RJ models, and about a dozen of these are currently available or will be soon for new operators. BAE wants to offer the aircraft on leases but, in theory, it can restructure the ownership of the aircraft (some of which are part-owned by banks) to allow for various lease-purchase options.

According to Andy Whelan, sales executive for the new corporate sales initiative, the monthly rates for a typical five-year lease would be around $55,000 for an older 146-100 model and $65,000 for a newer Avro RJ70. In addition, operators pay into a maintenance reserve at rates determined by the condition and support requirements of each aircraft.

BAE Systems (then trading as British Aerospace) introduced the 146 as a regional airliner in the 1980s, offering three sizes–the -100, -200 and -300. It subsequently replaced the four original Textron Lycoming ALF502 engines with Honeywell’s LF507 turbofans and introduced several other upgrades (including the cockpit suite) to offer the Avro RJ70, RJ85 and RJ100.

Carving a Corporate Niche
What the 146/Avro RJ series offers to prospective non-airline operators is a substantial cabin, flexible airfield performance and dispatch reliability that is now better than 99 percent. In the company’s view, it is especially suitable as a replacement for older airliner platforms such as the Boeing 727, McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and BAC 111, none of which meets current and future noise requirements and all of which are increasingly hard to maintain. “It is excellent value for operators who don’t need the range that you would get with a Boeing Business Jet but for a lot more money,” Whelan told AIN.

There are currently some 14 of the 146 and Avro fleet in corporate or government service, including with the British Royal Air Force squadron that flies Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Three of these have been delivered to new operators this year, all in the Middle East.

The 146s and Avro RJs offer excellent short-field performance and are certified for use at London City Airport, with its 5.5-degree steep approach. Carrying 20 passengers, the aircraft can fly just over 1,300 nm after taking off from a 3,040-foot dry runway (at sea level in ISA conditions) and needs only 3,150 feet to land. The jets were also designed for use on unpaved runways and, due to their high-wing configuration, do not require special ground support equipment.

Flying out of Orlando carrying almost any of the envisioned executive loads, the 146/Avro RJ series can offer nonstop range to anywhere in the contiguous U.S. and most of Canada. It also has transcontinental range for Europe.

The cabin offers the space to have, for example, a VIP configuration in the forward section and standard airline seating in the rear. Examples of possible cabin configurations for an Avro RJ100 include the following: 36 seats at four abreast and 40-inch pitch; 10 VIP seats at 45-inch pitch and 48 at a standard 33-inch pitch; and eight VIP seats and 52 economy seats at 32-inch pitch.

The cabin provides generous headroom at 6 feet 9.5 inches. It is almost 60 feet long and 10 feet 9 inches wide–giving a lot more real estate for the passengers than longer-range rivals such as the Bombardier Global Express, Gulfstream G550 and Dassault Falcon 900.

The 477-cu-ft baggage bay is well suited to stowing bulky items. It has a total weight capacity of 5,000 pounds.

Customers who want to have the cabins of leased aircraft refitted are free to choose their own completions supplier. BAE intends to form closer working relations with leading refurbishment providers such as Jet Aviation.

With its life-extension program, the 146/Avro regional airliner line can be cleared for up to 80,000 hours and cycles. Honeywell offers maintenance plans for the LF507 turbofans.