Divergent conditions in the regional airline business and the business jet realm have conspired to create a potential boon for completion companies involved in converting Bombardier CRJs into executive transports. As most anyone in the airline industry knows, the market environment for regional jets has changed drastically in the past few years, as the major airlines that control the fleets have gradually come to the conclusion they need to address an overcapacity of 50-seaters in particular. And as many in the market for a new business jet have found, the backlog for new airplanes has reached so far into the future that customers of a Boeing Business Jet, for example, might have to wait 10 years to take delivery of an airplane. As a result, values of used business jets have soared, creating the perfect conditions for companies such as Tailwind Capital to take advantage of a potential flood of regional jets perfectly suited to conversion to executive transports.
Exhibiting here at the DeCrane booth (No. 375), Tailwind has unveiled the first of five Bombardier CRJ conversions it plans to sell to business aviation customers. Called the Hemisphere 200XR, the airplane will go to Dutch concern Solidair BV outfitted with a 15-passenger cabin layout and an FAA-certified fuel system that extends range out to 3,000 nm. Purchased from its previous owner by a wholly owned subsidiary of Merrill Lynch, the airplane should be ready for delivery within six weeks, Tailwind president Joel Hussey told EBACE Convention News at the show.
Four of the five airplanes came from Cincinnati-based Delta Air Lines subsidiary Comair, the other from the now defunct Independence Air. Relatively young by CRJ200 standards, all the Comair airplanes rolled out of the Bombardier factory in 2003. Serial No. 7730 has flown 10,141 hours since new, and has come fresh from maintenance. It carries a fuel capacity of 2,728 gallons–2,135 main and 593 gallons in the auxiliary tanks.
DeCrane subsidiary PATS Aircraft of Georgetown, Delaware– the OEM provider of the auxiliary fuel system of the Challenger 820–performs the conversions for Tailwind. Bombardier participated in the integration of the PATS fuel system in the CRJ, including certain wing and tank modifications and the design of interface structural components. The auxiliary tanks in the airplane offer some 900 nm of additional range, giving the baseline CRJ200 transcontinental and transatlantic capability.
Meanwhile, another company poised to take advantage of the expected influx of relatively cheap, used regional jets–Peterborough, Ontario-based Flying Colours–just flew its first “ExecLiner” CRJ conversion for the first time. Scheduled for delivery to Indian fractional provider Club One Air, the airplane is a 16-passenger transport capable, just as the Tailwind airplanes, of flying 3,000 nm. “With long OEM lead times the ExecLiner has become an attractive option for clients from all over the globe and we anticipate this trend to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Flying Colours director of sales Sean Gillespie.
Flying Colours has three more CRJ200s in various stages of completion and claims firm orders for 10 ExecLiners as well as completions work it will do on the derivative CRJ Phoenix.
Other exhibiting companies involved in regional jet completions include Stork Fokker Services (Booth No. 875), Action Aviation (on the static display with a Sino Swearingen SJ-30) and ABS Jets (Booth No. 867).