Comair’s flight attendants last month voted to accept a new five-year contract that would pay new cabin crew about 20 percent less than current employees, moving Comair one step closer to meeting its cost-cutting goals and adding 35 regional jets starting next month. The extra capacity will mean another 350 flight attendant jobs and guarantee existing workers their scheduled pay raises over the life of the contract.
Embraer and Bombardier each collected significant orders late last month for their respective regional jets, the Brazilian manufacturer from Saudi Arabian Airlines for 15 dual-class Embraer 170s and the Canadian airframe maker from Northwest Airlines for 15 fifty-seat CRJ200s. Embraer’s sale marked its first from the Middle East, a potentially lucrative market where regional networks remain largely undeveloped.
Twilight has fallen unceremoniously on the heyday of the 50-seat regional jet, and Bombardier’s October 28 announcement that it would suspend production of the CRJ200 only underscored that fact. Of course, the recent bankruptcies of Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Independence Air haven’t helped, but signs of a meltdown came long before any CRJ operators stopped deliveries or started grounding airplanes.
On August 31 the NTSB officially recommended that the FAA require Bombardier to revise the maintenance procedures for the Canadair CRJ 200 so that the aileron free play check is accomplished at an interval less than 2,973 flight hours to prevent flight with aileron free play greater than the maximum limit.
Comair will dispose of as many as 30 regional jets and slash between 600 and 1,000 jobs as part of a plan to cut costs by $70 million a year, the company announced last month.
SkyWest Airlines and Bombardier have agreed to convert a firm order for 18 CRJ200s held by SkyWest’s new Atlantic Southeast Airlines division to positions on 70-seat CRJ700s. As part of the deal, SkyWest has also placed firm orders for another four CRJ700s, all to fly under its Delta Connection contract. The deal coincided with a U.S.
US Airways will ask a bankruptcy court for permission to void its code-share contract with Mesa Air Group, leaving 23 Bombardier CRJ200s and 36 Embraer 145s available for code-share flying with other airlines, Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein said during a conference call with investment analysts last month.
While many European companies still view business jets as “corporate barges” rather than genuine business tools, statistics show they are more likely to warm to corporate/executive shuttles. Perhaps this is because of a shuttle’s more utilitarian purpose as a transporter of a company’s employees rather than just the company’s executives.
Try as they might, regional airlines just can’t seem to avoid the glare of public scrutiny. The latest controversy, involving the fatal crash of a Pinnacle Airlines CRJ200 on October 14 last year, has once again forced the industry to defend its safety record. This time, however, the airlines can’t blame the hubbub on the rantings of politicians or ex-DOT Inspectors General.
When the nation’s news media rounded up the pundits to comment on the possible causes of the August 27 crash of Comair Flight 5191, many could conjure reasonable speculation about why the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100 jet lined up on Lexington Blue Grass Airport’s 3,500-foot Runway 26 rather than the main, 7,000-foot, Runway 22.