Piedmont Hawthorne has entered into an agreement with Saab Aircraft Leasing (SAL) to market Saab 340 twin-turboprops for corporate shuttle use. The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based business aviation services group will seek corporate buyers and lessors for the Swedish-built regional airliners and will also refurbish the interiors and provide maintenance.
The Saab 340s are being offered with 27 all-leather seats to make the cabins more comfortable than the standard 33- to 34-seat airliner configuration. Piedmont is now completing a demonstrator aircraft for the corporate-shuttle role at its Harrisburg, Pa. facility.
SAL chief executive Michael Magnusson estimated that if a firm needs to move roughly 15 to 18 people between two of its locations on a regular basis, it will almost certainly be more cost effective to start an in-house shuttle operation.
Piedmont intends to market the corporate shuttle application primarily for firms needing to transport middle managers and engineers. For companies that are reluctant to get directly involved in operating responsibilities, it will help secure the services of air carriers to run the shuttle services under management or lease contracts.
At any given time, SAL generally has some 15 to 20 Saab 340s in its portfolio, including a mixture of the original A models and the higher performance B version. The airplanes offer a max payload range of just over 800 nm and cruise at 285 kt.
The approximate purchase price of a used Saab 340A is around $3 million. Lease terms are generally offered for three to five years, with rates varying significantly according to what equipment and services the customer wants to include in the contract.
Piedmont has already sold two Saab 340s for shuttle applications in the U.S. and another to a South African company. North American corporate operators include diesel engine maker Cummins, the Kelly Springfield tire group and the University of Indiana.
Colgan Air operates a shuttle operation for Internet service provider America Online, ferrying employees each day between Washington, D.C., and both New York City and Columbus, Ohio. The service uses the executive terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport and New York-area Teterboro Airport, where a bus takes staff to the Time Warner group’s Manhattan office.
In Europe, Sweden’s Golden Air provides a daily Saab 340 shuttle operation for auto manufacturer Volvo. The service connects Gothenburg’s downtown Save Airport with Cologne/Bonn Airport in Germany.
Piedmont has also been involved in remarketing three larger twin-turboprop Saab 2000s that General Motors had used for corporate shuttle operations out of its Detroit headquarters between 1995 and the end of last year. It also has a corporate-configured twin-turboprop British Aerospace Jetstream 31 on its books for sale or lease.
The former GM Saab 2000s are fitted with just 36 seats (compared with the regional airliner’s standard 50-seat configuration) with low usage history averaging 2,000 hr and 3,000 cycles. In April, one of the three aircraft was delivered to the Penske corporate flight department, where it will be used to support the group’s NASCAR auto racing team. Among twin-turboprop transports, the Saab 2000 is considered a sporty model itself, offering a 360-kt cruise speed.