At face value, the big orders from Air Canada in late September for Bombardier and Embraer jets augur well for the Western hemisphere’s last two regional jet builders. The orders added significantly to the companies’ delivery backlogs. Embraer received a firm order for 45 of its 98-seat 190s and Bombardier logged a contract for 15 CRJ200s and 15 CRJ700 Series 705s.
Both Bombardier and Embraer announced cuts in regional jet production that will see next year’s CRJ200 output fall by 25 percent and total Embraer RJ deliveries by some 9 percent this year and 15 percent next year.
Just when it looked as if the image of the regional airline industry escaped relatively unscathed from last year’s spate of accidents, the crash of two more regional airliners in Missouri last month thrust it right back into the glare of public scrutiny. The first, involving a Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 on October 14, killed the two pilots flying the airplane on a positioning flight from Little Rock, Ark., to Minneapolis.
Last month’s Regco order for 10 Q400s accompanied a flurry of minor transactions for Bombardier since AIN’s February issue went to press, starting with a contract for a pair of 74-seat Q400s from South African Airways.
As Atlantic Southeast Airlines president Skip Barnette maintains, few established companies emerge from a five-year, 25-percent annual growth plan untouched by organizational turmoil and swollen debt-to-capital ratios. So how has ASA, four years into just such a plan, maintained its reputation for fiscal discipline and operational performance while doubling its capacity since Barnette assumed control of the company in 1999?
Bombardier added another name to its list of customers for its new 100-seat CRJ1000 last month, when Slovenia’s Adria Airways signed for one of the big regional jets as part of a firm order that also included a pair of 86-seat CRJ900s. A long-time Bombardier customer, Adria placed its first order for CRJ200s in March 1997. It now operates seven of the 50-seat airplanes and, since this past May, a pair of CRJ900s.
As the global economy slows and sales of current-generation regional jets reach a plateau, new designs conceived during the height of the regional-jet spending spree stand ready to vie for market acceptance at a time when ambivalence prevails throughout the industry.
Bombardier CRJ100, Lexington, Ky., Aug.
Five years of on-and-off negotiations between SkyWest Airlines subsidiary Atlantic Southeast and its 1,700 pilots ended on September 28, when the sides reached a tentative deal on a five-year contract.
SkyWest Airlines last month said it plans to acquire 22 more regional jets as part of a strategy to retire 23 Embraer Brasilia turboprops and add 66-seat jet capacity to its United Express network. SkyWest also intends to swap four 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s for four RJs configured with 76 seats under its Delta Connection banner.