Fokker 100s find niche in exec/shuttle market

 - December 17, 2007, 11:13 AM

Some 30 operators are now evaluating executive and corporate shuttle versions of the Fokker 100 twinjet (the F100EJ and F100CS, respectively), according to Fokker Services–a subsidiary of the Stork group that bought the assets of the bankrupt Dutch airframer and is marketing the converted airliners at prices ranging from $11 million to $12.5 million. The airplanes are also available for lease through UK-based Aravco.

Platinum Jet Air of Calgary, Canada, is preparing to launch all-first-class scheduled services using a former US Airways F100 that Fokker Services has remodeled with 56 seats at a 40-inch pitch and a stand-up bar in the middle of the cabin. In airline service the aircraft generally operates with around 107 seats.

The company, which has also signed to lease two more of the corporate shuttle versions from Aravco on a five-year term, will connect Calgary and Vancouver with Toronto. These services were due to start last month, but licensing issues with Transport Canada have created delays.

Late last year, Farnborough-based Aravco leased an F100EJ to an undisclosed operator in the Far East. This aircraft has 46 seats; 36 are the equivalent of an airline first-class seat and the other 10 are a yet more comfortable VIP configuration.

F100 Availability
According to Fokker Services business development manager Peter van Oostrum, there are about eight former US Airways and American Airlines F100s available for conversion. The company expects some more aircraft to come on the market from a 35-ship batch purchased from a bank by an undisclosed private company, and leasing groups GECAS and Debis also have some availability.

Aravco managing director Robin Brodhurst said that his company can make about three F100s available for corporate shuttle or executive applications. He estimated that there are between 30 and 40 of the aircraft available, or potentially available, in the worldwide marketplace. In his view, lease rates for the F100 have been rising and now stand at between $60,000 and $90,000 per month.

Following 9/11, numerous F100s were up for sale as US Airways, American Airlines and Brazil’s TAM rationalized their fleets. But European regional and low-cost carriers–such as Switzerland’s Helvetic Airways, Austrian Arrows, EU Jet, Slovak Airlines and Germania–have bought or leased around 40 F100s offered through Fokker Services’ Future 100 refurbishment and support program.

Corporate Travel Alternative
The F100CS and F100EJ might be characterized as economical alternatives to the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) or Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ)–both of which retail new for about four times as much as the reconfigured airliners.

For the price of the pre-owned, pinstriped Fokkers in the new business aviation configuration, a buyer would get a significantly smaller Gulfstream 100 or Bombardier Learjet 60. The Dutch aircraft offer cabins comparable in size to those of the BBJ and ACJ, albeit slightly narrower at 10 feet 2 inches and with a few inches less headroom at 6 foot 7.1 inches.

The F100CS will typically be supplied in seating configurations of between 30 and 50. The F100EJ will generally come with around 20 seats, plus space for features such as a private bedroom suite, staff seating, a rear galley or additional toilets.

In addition to having a lower maximum takeoff weight than the BBJ and ACJ (101,000 pounds versus approximately 170,000 pounds), the F100 also offers less range than those airplanes.

Fokker Services is now developing an auxiliary fuel tank system that would increase the maximum range of the F100EJ to just over 3,200 nm (with the addition of four new fuel cells in the forward baggage hold and two more in the rear), and that of the F100CS to 2,350 nm (with two or three additional cells).

As such, the reworked F100s really do not offer true transatlantic range. However, they meet just about all requirements for travel within North America and can also handle substantial city pairings such as London to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Paris to Libreville, Gabon; and Caracas to Buenos Aires. With an Mmo of Mach 0.77, the twinjets are not particularly speedy.

According to Van Oostrum, average fleet dispatch reliability for the F100 family is “over 99 percent.” He acknowledged that there is variance within this mean figure, with some operators–especially the newer ones–enjoying a rate of up to 99.7 percent, while others have seen markedly lower performance.

The Fokker executive explained that some of the reliability fluctuations have been due to the fact that the F100 fleet has had a somewhat turbulent past few years as it has been phased out of service by operators such as American Airlines and US Airways.

Support Packages
To match the support programs it offers airline customers, Fokker Services is offering executive and corporate shuttle operators support packages that are more closely tailored to the operators’ lower average annual flight hours. As part of the conversion work that the company conducts at its Hoogerheide facility in the Netherlands, each aircraft goes through a D-check and associated overhaul.

According to Fokker Services, most of the F100s now available for reuse in either airline or business aviation applications have logged between 20,000 and 30,000 cycles/ hours–barely a third of the way through their certified life of 90,000 cycles/hours. Neither executive nor corporate shuttle operators are ever likely to reach this limit.

The aircraft’s pair of Rolls-Royce Tay 650 engines can be supported under the engine maker’s Corporate Care program. Even when the airplane is at mtow, the F100 powerplant complies with forthcoming Stage 4 noise standards by a cumulative margin of -5.6 EPNdB and it is even more comfortably within Stage 3 limits.

The F100 cockpit features dual Collins flight management systems, with Category IIIB autoland capability. Fokker Services can install the necessary upgrades for new requirements such as PRnav, RVSM and TCAS II.