With the backlog for new business jets extending years into the future in some cases, and with used large-cabin aircraft prices soaring, several enterprises are offering an expedient alternative through executive conversions of Canadair CRJ200 regional jets. The 50-seat (in its commercial configuration) jetliner was first introduced in 1992 as a replacement for regional turboprops.
BAE Systems may have to build another 14 of its Avro RJX regional jets, despite announcing its intention to scrap the program in late November. The UK manufacturer is now seeking to renegotiate contracts with launch customers British European Airways (BEA) and Druk Air of Bhutan. The British operator placed an order for 12 RJXs and options for another eight, and Druk Air holds a firm order for two.
American Eagle last month announced plans to launch regional jet service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning next month, with service to Albuquerque, N.M., Phoenix and Oakland, Calif. A long-time turboprop operator at LAX, American Eagle plans to provide the service with new 44-seat Embraer ERJ-140s.
Embraer president and CEO Mauricio Botelho reflected on the events of September 11 and their subsequent effect on the world’s aerospace industry with a quote from Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “We must be tough without losing tenderness,” said Botelho during a lavish dinner affair the evening before the October 29 rollout of the newly branded 70-seat Embraer 170 regional jet.
Brazilian certification of the Embraer Legacy is expected this month, following the prototype’s return from its European tour. Only “minor final details regarding interior systems” remain, according to Sam Hill, vice chairman of Embraer Aircraft Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Brazilian OEM’s U.S. marketing arm. First delivery to launch customer Swift Aviation is also expected this month.
Jet Aviation in West Palm Beach, Fla., was recently named an authorized service center by Embraer for its new Legacy, a 10- to 19- passenger business jet/corporate shuttle version of the ERJ-135 regional jet. Brazilian certification of the Legacy is expected this month (see related story at right).
The UK’s BAE Systems has scrapped the RJX regional jet program and will shut down all future RJ production after it finishes four airplanes currently in production. BAE said the company had orders for only 14 RJXs and that an already poor market exacerbated by the events of September 11 would mean losing money on every RJ sold. The company emphasized it will continue to provide support for all customer BAE RJs.
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.
Having been frustrated by the cancellation of the Fairchild Dornier 428JET, ScotAirways (the UK regional carrier that previously operated as Suckling Airways) is “looking actively” for an alternative small regional jet as it seeks to add capacity on its mainly British routes. Director Merlyn Suckling said that if the airline had ordered the Fairchild Dornier 328JET it could have upgraded to the larger 428JET.
Bombardier won a long-anticipated and hard-fought operational lease deal from Northwest Airlines for 75 CRJ-440 regional jets, the newly designated 44-passenger version of the 50-seat CRJ-200. The airline has also taken options on an additional 175 CRJ-440s.