BAE Systems Regional Aircraft suggests there might be a large increase in the Persian Gulf-based fleet of British Aerospace 146/Avro RJ regional jets in the next six months. The current four airplanes operating in the area could have grown to as many as 15 by the second quarter of 2008, according to BAE Systems salesman Andy Whelan at an aviation-finance conference here last week.
Interest in regional aircraft in the Middle East is growing, said Whelan. Often available at relatively short notice and for utility applications beyond established airline operations, such equipment permits carriers to develop short and “thin” routes while maintaining service frequency. Abu Dhabi-based Palm Aviation has acquired the seven BAe 146-300s in storage following previous operation by China Northwest Airlines. The first machine, due to undergo a VIP conversion, will go to its customer later this year.
The Dubai Air Wing has bought three Avro RJ85s previously flown by Mesaba Airlines of Minneapolis. At least one will undergo VVIP configuration, and all will enter service in the early part of 2008. An Avro RJ100 currently in airline service has been sold to an undisclosed Gulf customer for delivery in January ahead of conversion for VVIP use.
The current fleet in the region consists of two Avro RJ85 transports flown by the Bahrain Defence Force, an RJ70 corporate aircraft with Abu Dhabi’s Amiri Royal Flight, and a 42-passenger executive-charter RJ85 flown by Royal Jet. The most recent transactions mean that three Gulf governments have chosen to operate Avro RJs.