The Sukhoi Superjet 100 will soon find its first home in Western Europe under the terms of a letter of intent between Moscow-based aircraft lessor Ilyushin Finance and Belgian carrier VLM Airlines. The LOI calls for VLM to take a pair of SSJ100LRs in April of next year under a 12-year operating lease, just ahead of the launch of the airline’s planned new regional services from its base in Antwerp. The deal includes options on another two SSJ100s and so-called purchase rights on another 10.
News and issues relating specifically to regional airlines, including aircraft, engines, personnel, acquisitions, accidents, safety, security and training; and coverage of annual conventions of the U.S. Regional Airline Association (RAA) and European Regions Airline Association (ERA).
A rollout ceremony held Saturday in Nagoya, Japan, for the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet marked a symbolic end of a 50-year wait for a new Japanese airliner to take shape. Not since the NAMC YS-11 turboprop flew for the first time in 1962 has a Japanese effort to break into the commercial airplane market reached such a state of progress. Under development for some seven years, the MRJ finally looks like an airplane capable of flying—and ultimately delivering the 20-percent fuel efficiency improvement over current designs Mitsubishi Aircraft advertises.
Bombardier delivered the first Q400 in a new extra-capacity seating configuration to Thailand’s Nok Air, the companies announced in late August. The milestone 86-seat aircraft arrived in Bangkok under the terms of a purchase agreement signed in November last year for up to eight Q400s. The airline now holds firm orders for six of the big turboprops and retains purchase rights on another two.
American Airlines plans to transfer all 47 of Envoy Air’s Bombardier CRJ700s to fellow wholly owned regional subsidiary PSA starting in the middle of next year, Envoy CEO Pedro Fábregas reported in a September 4 letter to employees posted on the Dallas Morning News website. Although the major airline hasn’t yet determined the exact dates and the rates at which it will transfer the 70-seat jets, it anticipates it will complete the exercise by the end of 2016.
South Africa’s Denel has unveiled plans to design and build a new 15- to 24-seat commercial turboprop aircraft called the Sara.
Calgary-based WestJet Encore signed a firm order for five Bombardier Q400s in late July, raising its order total for the type to 30. The latest deal, valued at $167 million, involved the conversion of five options booked by parent company WestJet with its original order for the type in July 2012. Plans call for the airplanes to help support WestJet’s expansion into the eastern part of Canada, where it currently operates a base out of Toronto.
Japan’s Amakusa Airlines expects to become the country’s first ATR 42 operator under the terms of a lease deal it signed in late July with Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC). The letter of intent calls for the Kumamoto Prefecture-based regional airline to take the aircraft, a new ATR 42-600, in the fourth quarter of next year. The announcement followed NAC’s firm order at the Farnborough airshow for 25 ATR 42-600s. NAC also took options on 50 of the turboprops, raising the potential value of the deal to more than $1.55 billion.
Aurigny Air Services plans to start new service between its base in Guernsey in the Channel Islands and London City Airport on September 8, starting with a wet-leased Fokker 50 turboprop. Plans call for two round trips each week with the Fokker for four to eight weeks, at which time Aurigny expects to start flying a newly sourced ATR on the route.
Indianapolis-based Republic Airways plans to consolidate its Chautauqua Airlines operation into its Shuttle America subsidiary in an effort to cut costs through a reduction of its air operator certificates to two from three. Company CEO Bryan Bedford sent a letter to employees in late July announcing the company’s intention to migrate Chautauqua’s 41 fifty-seat Embraer ERJ-145s to Shuttle America by year-end.
Change is afoot in the European regional airline sector, it would seem. Gone are the days of the “us and them,” with the regionals on one side, the major airlines on another and the low-cost carriers playing the role of bad-boy upstarts.
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