Japan’s first commercial jetliner, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) 90 took to the skies at 8:30 in the morning from Japan’s Nagoya airfield, for a flight that lasted nearly 85 minutes long. The flight was conducted by a MRJ 90 STD, registered JA21MJ, with construction (serial) number 10001. The aircraft flew with a constant flap setting, landing gear down and locked, and thrust reversers de-activated.
The first flight marks a major milestone for a program that is significantly delayed. The first flight was planned for 2012.
The 92 seat MRJ 90 has a seating capacity that directly competes with the 88 seat Embraer E175, and the 90 seat Bombardier CRJ 900. However, the aircraft is fitted with Pratt & Whitney’s high bypass Geared Turbofan Engines (GTF), which allow the aircraft superior fuel economics than any sub-100 seat regional jet, today. This is the MRJ 90’s USP.
Below is a comparison of key performance, weights and dimensions between the Bombardier CRJ900, Embraer E175, and the Mitsubishi MRJ 90:
Below is the comparison of ranges between all three aircraft and their sub variants:
The last Japanese commercial airliner program was the YS-11 turboprop airliner, in 1960. The MRJ program, which marks a comeback of the Japanese airliner market after a gap of nearly 60 years, adds an additional player in the regional jet market.
The regional jetliner market today is dominated largely by Embraer and Bombardier, with Embraer grabbing a larger share of the pie. Sukhoi’s Superjet International SSJ 100, a 100 seat regional jetliner, is so far an insignificant player. China’s regional jet, the ARJ 21, hasn’t yet entered service. Mitsubishi becomes the fifth player.
However, Mitsubishi will be the third aircraft program to penetrate the United States Market. 76% of the MRJ 90’s firm orders are from airlines in the United States. 170 aircraft are ordered by three US regional airlines: Trans States Holdings (a holding company for three regional airlines), Sky West, and Eastern Airlines.
A new aircraft brings with it two key questions that affect sales : How reliable will the aircraft be, and how good with the customer support be?
A new aircraft will almost always have issues with reliability before the aircraft ‘matures’ and corrections are made to the production aircraft. This has been seen with the Boeing 787, the Embraer E190 (when it entered service with JetBlue), the Airbus A380 – all new airplanes have their fair share of troubles till the product matures. The MRJ 90 will be no exception.
Customer support, which can sway market shares, has been carefully dealt with, by MRJ. Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, which today is one of the best, will provide Mitsubishi Aircraft with 24/7 customer support including spare parts provisioning, service operations and field services, until Mitsubishi takes service in-house.
Another important aspect for an airplane is the residual value of the aircraft – data that is yet unavailable. Lessors prefer to bet on airplanes that they know for certain will have a good enough market residual value to capitalise on.
Is the MRJ 90 in a good segment?
The MRJ 90 is an airplane with better market prospects than the MRJ 70. Since the beginning of 2009, Embraer has recorded 0 net orders for the 78 seat EMB170 regional jet, and Bombardier has recorded just 28 net orders for the 78 seat CRJ 700. On the other hand, since beginning 2009, Embraer has recorded a net 443 orders for the 88 seat E175 and E175E2 together, and Bombardier has recorded 139 net orders for the 90 seat CRJ 900. The 90 aircraft market has had better prospects over 27 quarters than any other size of regional jets. Below are the order graphs:
The MRJ 90 is in a very hot segment, which can get hotter if scope clauses in the United States are upward revised. The clause today limits US regional airlines to an aircraft weighing no more than 39 tonnes and limited to 76 seats. Unfortunately, the MRJ 90’s minimum maximum takeoff weight is 39.6 tonnes, while the lighter variants of the CRJ 900 and EMB 175 are within this specification.
The MRJ 90 is in a very unique position. Bombardier is not neither developing nor re-engining aircraft that are below 100 seats. The CRJ 700, 900 and 1000 aircraft will soon fade away as Embraer re-engines its aircraft and revises the wings to offer the market better versions (second generation) of the present E175, E190, and E195 regional jet models. Bombardier’s customer support history also works against the manufacturer. This effectively reduces notable competition to just Embraer and Mitsubishi in the sub-100 seat regional aircraft space.
The second generation of the Embraer E175, renamed the E175 E2, will be fitted with engines similar to the MRJ90, matching the MRJ 90’s fuel economics. However, the E175 E2 is expected to enter service only in 2020.
The MRJ 90 on the other hand is expected to enter service in 2017. However, uncertainty looms about the manufacturer sticking to its timeline, as it has not had any proven track record of dealing with jetliner programs in the recent past. Bombardier, an experienced manuafcturer, has slipped the CSeries’ timelines. It will not be surprising if Mitsubishi does the same. But even if the timelines slip by a year, to 2018, Mitsubishi will have atleast a 2 years head start over Embraer in the sub-100 seat regional jet space.
The Draft National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2015 proposes to boost regional connectivity in the country through the implementation of a Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). The RCS is aimed at making financially unviable, but economically important flights on certain regional routes a reality.
But for this to come true, many moves need to be made. The Ministry claims that there are 476 airstrips / aerodromes / airports in the country. Question is, how many of them are worthy of immediate operation? Today, airlines operate into and out of just 76 airports. What is the condition of the remainder airports?
The Ministry, in its bid to promote regional connectivity, must be specific about what it will fund. We touch upon this, and also try to do the numbers about how much money the Ministry may be able to raise, and with that money, how many regional aircraft may be operated. And which aircraft types are the most likely ones for the near term and the long term.
The RCS will spell the boom of regional aviation in India, only if implemented right. But it will also tax regular airlines, and not offer any viability gap funding for these airlines. There are challenges, and there are opportunities. To learn more, please click here.
Alliance Air, which is branded as Air India Regional, received its 5th brand new ATR 72-600 from Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-AIW, joins the fleet of four other ATR 72-600s, registered VT-AII, VT-AIT, VT-AIU and VT-AIV. Al five aircraft are leased from Singapore based leasing company Avation.
The ATR 72-600s, which employ an all new cockpit avionics based on technology used on the Airbus A380, is to replace the aging fleet of four ATR 42-320s. The ATR 42-320s in Alliance air are fitted with 48 seats, while the ATR 72-600s are fitted with 70 seats. The older ATRs sport a four bladed propeller, which made the aircraft noisier than the present six-bladed propellers. Passive noise reduction techniques make the present -600’s cabin a lot more pleasant than the older ATRs’.
With the arrival of VT-AIW, which was ferried Toulouse (TLS) – Heraklion (HER) – Ankara (ESB) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL), the total count of active ATR 72s in India (-500 & -600) has gone upto 27, split as 15 ATR 72-500 (Jet AIrways) + 3 ATR 72-600 (Jet AIrways) + 5 ATR 72-600 (Air India Regional / Alliance Air) + 2 ATR 72-500 (Air Pegasus) + 2 ATR 72-500 (TruJet). One ATR 72-500 is undergoing painting at Hosur, destined for Air Pegaus.
India totally has 51 70-80 seat turboprops in service, including 14 Bombardier Q400s of SpiceJet. The smaller ATR 42s, aged on average 21+ years, will soon be phased out.
Air India Regional / Alliance Air flies the longest turboprop route in the country, between Delhi and Rajkot, over 505 nautical miles, a flight that takes 2:30 hours block time, almost the same block time an Airbus or Boeing mainline narrowbody jet (A320 & 737 family) takes to fly double the distance. Due to insufficient crew, and to align with the schedules of the network of its parent Air India, the ATRs at Alliance Air are not utilised as much as the aircraft can be. Average present utilisation of the aircraft at the airline is close to 6 hours per aircraft per day. The aircraft operate only four flights a day, while Jet Airways operates upto 13 hours per aircraft per day and 9 flights per aircraft per day. (maximum figures).
Of the presently four operational ATR 72-600s with Alliance Air, three are based at Delhi, and operate flights to Kullu, Dharamshala, Allahabad, Dehradun, Rajkot and Pantnagar. One is based at Hyderabad, and operates flights to Vijayawada and Tirupati, offering competition to TruJet and Air Costa.
An ATR 72 is best suited for short (distance) and thin (low demand) routes of upto 350 nautical miles. Beyond this, a regional jet generally becomes a more viable and economical option. The shortest ATR 72 sector in India is operated by Jet Airways between Porbandar and Diu, a flight that lasts just 45 minutes block time over a distance of 90 nautical miles (166km). The average ATR 72 city pair distance in India is 223 nautical miles (413 km), while the average domestic flight distance across all domestic flights of all carriers on all aircraft in India is 455NM (843 km).
70-80 seat turboprops serve as good feeder aircraft to mainline aircraft, enabling deeper and true regional penetration in India, especially since many airfields and city pairs in India, today, are operationally and commercially unviable for regional and mainline jets. Many runways are too short for regional and mainline jets, and many cities are too underdeveloped to viably support larger aircraft.
The maps below show the pan-India coverage that turboprops can achieve by being based out of five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and by flying a maximum distance of 400NM. Range circles are 300NM and 400NM radius, as mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, a demand for 2,500 turboprops is anticipated, of which close to 50% may be based at Asia.
Header image does not represent VT-AIW, but VT-AII.
2015 is turning out to be the third boom in Indian civil aviation. The first was around 1995, when the sole aim was to start airlines. The second boom was in and around 2005 (ten years later), when low cost carriers were a fad. The third boom that hovers around 2015 (ten years after 2005), seems to be the birth of disruptive airlines. AirAsia India, Vistara, and a slew of regionals : Air Costa, Air Pegasus, Trujet, and Flyeasy.
Mainline routes have saturated. The 180 seat jet has been used, and perhaps, abused. Many markets are still too small to have either a 180 seat jet deployed, or too long in distance to be flown by a turboprop. Turboprops cater to short and thin routes, while regional jets, such as the Embraer E-jets, Mitsubishi MRJ, the Bombardier CRJ series and the CSeries cater to long and thin routes. 180 seat single aisle jets are best suited to long and denser routes.
With the saturation of the 180 seat market, the real gap left behind in India is the much needed inter-regional connectivity, mostly the long routes between Tier II, Tier III cities and Tier I cities. That is where the gap is, and Air Costa moved in to exercise a first mover advantage to tap that market. With Air Costa’s growth being slower than initially projected, and a market that is big enough with a high growth rate, Flyeasy seems to move in to tap the untapped market.
Based on hiring drives on Flyeasy’s Facebook page, the airline may fly to Tiruchy, Bagdogra, Ranchi, Varanasi, Indore and Bhubaneshwar from Bangalore. The network is yet unknown at this stage, but considering a regional operating permit and its limitations, the airline may fly a point-to-point network between Bangalore and six stations.
Sources reveal that the airline will be leasing two Embraer E190s from Flynas (formerly known as NASair). NASair had six Embraer E190s in its fleet, of which two have been transferred to Borajet and one to AnadoluJet of Turkey. Three other E190LRs seem to be in storage, of which 7 year olds MSN 217 and 233 are expected to join Flyeasy’s fleet, and presently are at Jordan undergoing ‘C’ checks. Both aircraft are powered by GE CF34-10E7 engines and are configured to seat 110 passengers each in a single class configuration.
MSN 217 is out of the paint shop, in Flyeasy colors, and is expected to be flown into Bangalore this month. The aircraft may be registered with the VT-VVx series, with the first two aircraft expected to be registered VT-VVA and VT-VVB. Maintenance of the aircraft has been outsourced to Airworks.
The airline apparently plans to launch operations with 3 aircraft, and grow the fleet to a total of 5 aircraft within the first 6 months of operations, and discussions with lessors for these aircraft are believed to be in advanced stages. The airline has ambitious plans to grow the fleet to 10 aircraft by July 2017, which seem a bit optimistic.
The airline held a formal application meeting with the DGCA on the 6th of July, 2015. Considering that it takes around 90 days from the formal application meeting to receive the AOP, the airline may receive its AOP towards the end of September, or around early October 2015. This may make the airline open for sales around mid-October 2015, and start commercial operations towards the end of October or early November 2015.
Fleet growth plans, when translated to dates, indicate a fleet of 5 aircraft by April 2016, and thereafter on average one aircraft every 3 months till July 2017, when the fleet size is expected to touch 10.
However, AirAsia India, Air Pegasus, and Air Costa have shown that fleet projections tend to be over optimistic, and are seldom adhered to. The airline plans to induct airplanes through both operating and financing leases.
The real promoters or the source(s) of funding are yet unknown, but the funding seems to be from the Middle East. It is uncertain if there exists foreign direct investment (FDI) or investments from non-resident Indians (NRI).
The airline published the management bios of its 15 heads of departments on its website. Besides a CEO, the airline also has a deputy CEO, Lila Singh Aulakh, who formerly was the director of operations at Air Costa.
Although Air Costa and Flyeasy operate the same aircraft type, the network of Air Costa and the possible destinations of Flyeasy do not overlap. Competition in this case is only notional, with both airlines having no true competitors at this stage.
One very important observation about Flyeasy is the importance the airline gives to the organisational culture. The airline calls its employees a ‘family’. CEO Finn Thaulow, who spent a large part of his airline career with SAS, may have been inspired by Jan Carlzon, who was the CEO of the SAS group between 1981 – 1994. Jan Carlzon transformed SAS from a loss making European airline to a profitable one, by emphasising and cultivating a culture that motivated employees to deliver their best through a feeling of ownership and belonging.
The business model, growth plans and the efficiency of the airline will however be put to test in the speed with which the AOP is secured, and the way in which the airline’s revenues and fleet grow. Customer satisfaction will be another key performance indicator. Airlines with discipline across departments are the most likely to succeed, just like market leader IndiGo, which has benefitted all three stakeholders: the board, employees, and passengers.
Air India Regional, better known as Alliance Air, received its first ATR 72-600 at Toulouse. The ATR 72,600 with MSN 1197 is registered VT-AII, and becomes the first ATR 72 for Air India and the fourth ATR 72-600 after VT-JCX/Y/Z that fly for Jet Airways. The aircraft, leased from Singapore-based leasing firm Avation, is the first out of five that the airline will receive until July 2015.
Air India Regional presently has about four ATR 42-320s (see photo on the left), which are all about 20 years old. The brand new and longer fuselage ATR 72-600 brings to Air India’s passengers a leap in cabin noise and comfort. The -320s have a four bladed propeller, while the -500s and -600s have a six bladed propeller.
The new ATR 72-600 is configured with 70 seats, compared to 48 that are fitted in the shorter ATR 42. This will allow Air India to either stimulate the markets which it caters to with this aircraft, or cater to those that have grown beyond 50 seats.
Mr. Rohit Nandan, Chairman, Alliance Air stated that “We are pleased to introduce into our fleet an aircraft which has clearly become the new reference among all regional planes. The ATRs have proven for years their reliability and their ability to bring our passengers to every destination of our regional network".
Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said that “We have partnered with Alliance Air for more than 10 years, and we are honored by this new proof of confidence in the ATR aircraft family. The new ATR 72-600 perfectly fit with the aim of the airline to progressively renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft, while adding seat-capacity into their main routes."
According to ATR, the 72-600 has a maximum take-off weight of 23,000kg, and can carry a max payload of 7,500kg over 900NM.
Air India regional joins Jet Airways and Air Pegasus as operators of the ATR 72. Turbo Megha is soon expected to become the 4th operator.
Fly Easy (India), the brand name of a Bangalore based regional airline proposed to be started by ABC Aviation and Training Services Private Limited, has called for applications for positions in ten departments in the company.
The startup-airline company had received its initial NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the aviation ministry on the 18th of January, 2012. This is five days earlier than Air Costa’s first NOC which was issued on the 23rd of January, 2012.
The initial NOC is valid for a period of 18 months, and must be renewed every six months thereafter to maintain its validity. The airline is presently in its third (3rd) renewal, and will have to apply for its fourth (4th) renewal on the 23rd of January 2015.
The airline may apply for its AOP during its 5th renewed NOC period, if all goes as per plan. However, it is uncertain if the airline has sufficient funds to start operations.
The airline reportedly has an authorised capital of INR 12 Crores. This would have been just sufficient (only to meet regulatory requirements, insufficient for operations though) to start an airline with aircraft such as the E170 and E175. However, for an airline that plans to fly the E190s (or heavier aircraft), the regulatory requirement is a minimum paid up capital (not authorized capital) of INR 30 Crores minimum. The airline’s reported authorized capital is not in agreement with the airline’s plans to fly E190 aircraft.
As of today, the airline aims for a regional scheduled operator’s permit for the Southern Region – the most lucrative region for regional operations in the country. Earlier news reports had indicated Guwahati, Amritsar and Surat as ‘priority’ destinations. The airline indicates its plans to have a fleet of Embraer E-190 aircraft. Such aircraft will help any airline tap long, thin markets that are either underserved or virgin. Aircraft with the range and capacity of an Embraer E190 (a little more than 100 seats – 112 in the case of Air Costa) gain prominence in the light of the saturation and focus of/on mature markets – Tier I routes and certain Tier III routes.
The airline’s website is up, and the brand colours, design and theme are perhaps the best amongst startup regional airlines in the country.
The airline company has an office at Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport’s Alpha 3, though the company is registered at Trivandrum, at an area just south-east of Trivandrum international airport.
The airline company has four directors – Rafi Sainulabdeen Mohammed, Rajesh Ebrahimkutty Majidha Beevi, Sanaulla Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan and a ‘Rajesh’.
As per the airline’s website, the CEO is Finn Thaulow. It is uncertain whether he is the CEO or still a CEO-designate. The approximately 60 year old Norwegian CEO was formerly with FlyMe Europe, and Syrian Pearl Airlines. During his tenure as CEO at FlyMe Sweden, the airline, which operated Boeing 737 Classics (-300 & -500), filed for bankruptcy in March 2007. The sudden closure affected numerous passengers who had purchased tickets from the airline.
In 2011, trial against FlyMe was initiated, in which the CEO, Finn Thaulow, along with three others were charged. Finn Thaulow was charged with ‘serious accounting fraud’, as reported by Gotheborg Daily- a Swedish Daily. Reportedly, the four accused ’emptied the company of 40 million kronor in the winter of 2006 through a fictitious transaction involving the purchase of shares in River Don Ltd’. At this moment, we have been unable to establish the result of the trial.
Syrian Pearl Airlines, which was founded in 2008, with Finn as the CEO, started operations in May 2009 with a BAe 146-300. The airline had entered into a ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) agreement with Orion Air of Spain, concerning two BAe 146 aircraft, one of which it started operations with. According to the US Department of Commerce, the agreement was a breach of US export regulations. Finn had privately appealed against a temporary denial order (TDO), stating that it was Orion Air’s responsibility for ‘obtaining all necessary licenses and governmental approvals on Orion Air before sending the two BAE 146-300 aircraft to Syria’. The airline ceased operations three months after its commencement, when the lessor Orion Air pulled out due to the US sanctions imposed on it.
Finn Thaulow was on the shortlist for Tarom’s board of directors. Tarom is the flag carrier of Romania.
Prior to FlyME, Finn was the Vice President of Alliances and Corporate partners at SAS Scandinavian Airlines – the flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. He was also part of Spanair’s management team. Spanair, which ceased operation in 2012, was a Spanish airline, and a subsidiary of the SAS Group during Finn’s engagement.
Finn has over 25 years of aviation experience, and that may immensely benefit the airline, should it take-off.
Bangalore based Air Pegasus today received its first aircraft – an ATR 72-500, MSN 699 – from its lessor, after successfully completing its acceptance flight. Minor glitches in the aircraft’s auto flight system had delayed the ferry.
The aircraft, sporting an all white body (much like Vistara’s first Airbus A320), was ferried from its storage at Kuala Lumpur, and flown to Bangalore via Dhaka, where it had a tech stop. The aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at around 0340Z/0910IST, and landed at Dhaka at 1020Z/1550IST, after flying for almost 6hrs40min. The aircraft departed almost an hour later at 1120Z/1650IST, and landed at Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore) at 1530Z/2100IST, after 4hrs10minutes.
The first leg – Kuala Lumpur (WMKK), Malaysia to Dhaka (VGHS) was 1,550NM long, and the second leg- Dhaka(VGHA) to Bangalore (VOBL), India was 1,047NM long. Cruise was at flight level (FL) 240. Below is the routing.
The aircraft was piloted by two captains- Sipsas and Brilakis – the only two expats on contract with Air Pegasus, as of today. The aircraft ferried flew in with a registration M-ABFC, and was formerly operating for Kingfisher Airlines with the registration VT-KAA. The aircraft went into storage in the April of 2012, and has not operated since.
Air Pegasus becomes ATR’s newest operator in the country.
One of Air Costa’s two Embraer E170s developed a windshield crack when operating into Bangalore, today, forcing the airplane to stay on ground for a few days till the windshield is replaced. To prevent disruption in operations, one of the E190s will be pulled into commercial service. Air Costa’s E190s seat 112 passengers in a single class, 45 more than their dual-class E170s.
The E190, registered VT-LBR, operated the Air Costa LB649 Hyderabad (ICAO: VOHS, IATA: HYD) – Jaipur (ICAO: VIJP, IATA: JAI) flight, marking the first commercial flight in India involving an Embraer E190. The flight, scheduled to depart at 14:05hrs IST, departed at 15:24hrs IST, picking up a 01:19hr delay due to the unforeseen pull-out of the E190 from parking into line operations, and the pull-out of the E170 from line ops.
The E190s were expected to be inducted into commercial service on 5th April, 2014. This bittersweet incident marks another milestone in Indian regional aviation, while also serving to emphasize how at the start-up phase of an airline, when the fleet is small, the non-availability of one aircraft can have significant operational ramifications.
Air Costa plans to stand out from the competition with its fares, connectivity, and unmatched cabin seating convenience and comfort.
Air Costa yesterday received the approval from the DCGA to fly the Embraer E190s. Air Costa is the first airline in the history of Indian aviation to operate Embraer E190s. The airline started operations in October 2013 with two Embraer E170s.
The two Embraer ERJ E190s, with manufacturer serial numbers 593 and 608, registered VT-LBR, VT-LVR respectively, were delivered to Air Costa towards the second half of December 2013, and are leased from GECAS. However, the approval to fly the E190s arrived only 3 months later, due to exhaustive DGCA paperwork, some of which related to getting the aircraft type approved in India. The airplanes have been parked at Hyderabad-Shamshabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International (ICAO: VOHS IATA: HYD).
The two Embraer E190s are expected to be deployed into commercial service in the first week of April, and will fly the longer routes in the approved summer schedule. Since the ERJ 190’s license endorsement, as recognized by the DGCA, is “EMB170”, and common with the ERJ 170, pilots in the airline can fly both aircraft variants.
The E190s will be based at Chennai, and will be deployed on the following sectors: Chennai-Ahmadabad, Ahmadabad-Bangalore, Bangalore-Jaipur, Jaipur-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Bangalore-Vishakhapatnam, Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad.
Each aircraft will start operations at 0600hrs IST, and fly till 2340hrs IST, accumulating a total of 29 block hours per day over 18 flights, representing 56% of the entire fleet’s utilization. The E190s will be utilized approximately 30% more than the E170.
The Embraer E190s are an all-economy four abreast-single aisle cabin, with 112 seats laid out over 28 rows, with a 29/30-inch seat pitch (some seats will have a comfortable pitch of 30 inches, while the others will have 29 inches). Each of the seats are as wide as 18.25 inches, armrest-armrest, which is a good 1.25inches wider (and more comfortable) than the seats on SpiceJet’s Boeing 737s, and IndiGo, GoAir and Air Asia India’s Airbus A320s, which are all 17 inches wide. In addition, there are no middle seats: only either window or aisle, making the overall experience very comfortable. This comfort will make the airline’s product a preferred one, among regional airlines, today.
The 112 seat E-190 has 62% the capacity of an Airbus A320, which the airline feels is the right capacity for the markets they serve today. Another 4 E190s are expected to join the fleet this year.
Air Costa has been flying the E-170s with load factors greater than 70%.
Highlights: The death of the 70 seat regional jet market, shifting market trends, and what airlines seem to trend on: affordable capacity.
50 seat regional jets heralded a new way to travel. Comfort and speed were real reasons, and offering a jet to regional customers, as opposed to a turboprop aircraft, suddenly seemed very attractive. The Embraer ERJ 145, introduced in 1996, and the Bombardier CRJ 100/200, introduced in 1992, both extremely popular 50 seat airplanes, sold 708 airplanes and 935 airplanes, respectively.
Regional aviation only continued to grow, fuelled by more efficient jets that promised good operating economics. According to Bombardier’s study in 1998, there was a growing requirement for larger aircraft in the fleets of the world’s regional airlines. To keep up with the growth in mainline fleets, Bombardier felt that regional fleet must grow in both size and capacity. The company felt that if the regional fleet did not grown beyond 50 seats, the number of 50-seaters required to satisfy demand would quadruple.
Because of this growth, regional airplanes grew in capacity, to match demand. The CRJ 700, a 70 seat regional jet from Bombardier, was introduced in 2001, and the competing Embraer 170 was introduced to airline service in 2004. As airplanes grew in size, the operational costs per seat started to fall, further opening up regional aviation to larger airplanes while gradually declining the smaller regional jet market. The market shifted, and continues to shift towards larger sized regional jets.
The CRJ 100/200 is no longer in production. In 2008, the Embraer 145 had 733 firm orders, which slumped to 708 in 2009, and has remained at that figure, over 4 years till date. By 2011, all orders had been realised through deliveries. The 50 seat jet market effectively and statistically died many, many years ago.
The CRJ 700, when introduced, did exceedingly well. Between 2000 and 2010, the order book grew by 160%, to 344 firm orders. The Embraer 170, which had a late start, touched 194 firm orders in 2009. While these were fairly good figures, the market shift hadn’t stopped.
The Embraer 190, and the CRJ 900 have seen the greatest sales growth. The E-190, when introduced in 2005 with JetBlue, had 185 firm orders. This has seen a fairly steady, and unparalleled growth to 560 in 2013: a growth of 200%. The CRJ1000 was Bombardier’s answer to the E-190, but that entered service very late, almost 5 years later, in December 2010, but firm orders stand at only 70, as of July 2013. The CRJ1000 is not much of a competitor to the E-190; The longest range version of the jet, 1,622NM, falls short of the shortest range version of the E-190: E-190STD at 1800NM. The E-190AR has a range of 2400NM.
While there was such encouraging growth in sales of 100 seat airplanes, The CRJ700 stopped building orders after 2010. In fact, after 2010, 4 firm orders were lost, with the number lazily bouncing back to 347 in 2013. After 2009, The Embraer 170’s firm orders only reduced, and hasn’t recovered since. It’s not the manufacturer. It’s the market, and the 70 seat regional jet isn’t favoured anymore. As of Sep 2013, there is a backlog of only 6 E-170, of which 2 are for Japan Airlines and 4 for ETA Star Aviation, India.
The 78-88 (80) seat E-175 is the next-best received aircraft. Orders for the type are nowhere close to that of its longer, 100 seat E-190, and had stagnated for more than 1 year in the period after 2011, at the level of the dead-market E-170. A sudden surge in orders, of 65% to 315 in 2013, is thanks to Skywest, which placed a large enough order for the type. The 90 seat CRJ900, has 306 firm orders in 2013, and witnessed a 380% surge in orders between 2005 and 2007.
A 2000NM range airplane with the ability to carry 100 passengers has been the hottest selling cake. Add another 16 to 24 seats and the offering, the E-195, isn’t quite as attractive. Bombardier’s response to the E-195 is the 125 CS100, and the unique, hitherto unmatched offering is the 135-160 seat CS300.
Proof that the market is shifting away from 70 seat jets is the fact that Embraer, that has moved forward with its plans to re-engine, significantly re-engineer and update the E-Jets to a “Second generation" of E2 jets, has the E-195-E2, the E-190-E2, and the E-175-E2, but no plans at all for the E-170-E2.
The market needs higher capacity airplanes for greater flexibility, provided that it doesn’t come at the cost of economics and performance. With economically better performing or promising airplanes hitting the market, “affordable capacity" is the market demand.
And since the E-175-E2 is planned for a 2020 Entry into service (EIS): the last amongst all re-engined E-Jets, it’s a sign of the 80 seat regional jetliner’s grave being prepared, next.
*This section is part of a much bigger, comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.