Paris Air Show

Bombardier: NextGen RJ will have lower costs

 - June 19, 2007, 10:40 PM

Bombardier Aerospace is showing its CRJ900 NextGen regional-jet here in 76-seat guise and the uniform of Northwest Airlines subsidiary Mesaba Airlines less than two weeks after a sister machine was unveiled in Washington, D.C. For regionals like Mesaba, the NextGen CRJ “will have substantially lower seat-mile costs than [competing] Embraer regional jets,” according to commercial-operations vice president Rod Williams.

Mesaba’s NextGen CRJ900s feature a new 12-seat premium-cabin section with a single seat on the left side and dual seats on the right. The 64 economy-class seats offer a 31-inch seat pitch. All the seats, made by C&D Zodiac and clad in leather, offer adjustable headrests that move vertically and bend inward on each side. New LED passenger and wash lighting should last the life of the airplane without bulb replacement. Overhead storage bins can accommodate 21 percent more roller bags than the original CRJ900 (and 27 percent more in the CRJ700), without reducing passenger headroom. Left-side seats in the forward section feature smaller overhead storage bins with latchable sliding doors large enough for briefcases and other light luggage. Passengers also should appreciate larger cabin windows, with new cutouts increasing window height by two inches to 15.8 inches.

Bombardier engineers have changed some minor aspects of the airframe design, however, including removal of the unrequired aft service door on the -900, and introduction of new composite flaps and flap vanes. Bombardier’s Belfast, Northern Ireland manufacturing plant makes the new composite parts using the resin-transfer molding process, which is new to the aerospace industry but has long been used in boat manufacturing.

Fuel burn and airframe direct maintenance costs have come down by 4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, on both the NextGen CRJ700 and -900. The reduction in fuel consumption results from ongoing flight testing and new cruise control manual; new landing flap settings; and, on the -900, a conical engine nozzle already installed on earlier-generation CRJ700s.

A-check intervals increase by 200 hours, to 600 from 400, and C-check periods lengthen to 6,000 hours from 4,000. Calendar-based checks are at three-year intervals. The company has also targeted for elimination, or realignment, out-of-phase tasks that add unnecessary labor hours between regular inspections.

Mesaba NextGen CRJs feature autopilot-coupled VNAV, which allows FMS flight plans to manage altitude so airlines can optimize flight profiles to minimize fuel burn. Airlines operating CRJ700s and -900s could buy retrofits of some NextGen fuel-burn reduction features, but Bombardier does not expect any airlines to retrofit the cabin interior.

The backlog for the CRJ NextGen Family totals 93 airplanes. The Canadian manufacturer plans to convert the CRJ700/900 production line to NextGen manufacturing this year. Any airlines placing orders now for those CRJs or the newly launched 100-seat CRJ1000 will automatically receive the NextGen version. NextGen prices range slightly higher, about $250,000 more for the CRJ700 and $300,000 more for the CRJ900.