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Flying the distance

In terms of operational economics, the regional jet seems better when bigger, as airlines look for higher profit per seat. Keith Mwanalushi looks closely at whether Bombardier’s CRJ900/1000 series and the competing Embraer E190/195 can deliver what the customer wants

The figures pretty much speak for themselves. The 20- to 59-seat segment of the market is expected to shrink by an estimated 66% between now and 2031, from approximately 3,600 aircraft, to just 1,200, according to the latest forecast from Bombardier.          


Meanwhile, in the same period the 60- to 99-seat segment is expected to grow 270%, from a current base of 2,500 aircraft; 5,600 new aircraft deliveries will be countered by 1,300 retirements, resulting in a 2031 fleet of 6,800 aircraft. The 100- to 149-seat segment is also expected to grow from a current base of approximately 5,100 aircraft, with deliveries of 6,900 new aircraft, and retirements of 3,000 aircraft. Embraer believes that 3,765 jets in the 91- to 120-seat segment will be delivered in the 2012-31 period.


The E190/195 programme was launched in 1999, with the first flights in 2004. New York-based LCC JetBlue became launch customer for the E190, with 100 orders and 100 options. Flybe launched the E195 with 14 orders and 12 options, first delivered in 2005 and 2006 respectively.


“The global market response to the E190/195 aircraft programme has been outstanding,” says Paulo Cesar Silva, president at Embraer Commercial Aviation. “We have secured 680 firm orders, accounting for 60% of the worldwide firm orders in the 91- to 120-seat jet market. Furthermore, a total of 543 E190/195 units have been delivered so far, which accounts for 80% of deliveries in the worldwide 91- to 120-seat jet market.”


The E190/195 models are a larger stretch  of the E170/175s, fitted with a new larger wing, larger horizontal stabiliser and a new engine, the GE CF34-10E, rated at 18,500lb (82.30 kN). “The E-Jets programme, that comprises the E170 and 175 in addition to the E190/195, already achieved 1,100 firm orders from 63 customers in 43 countries, and delivered 900 jets,” says Silva.


The 36.24m (118ft 11in) E190 seats around 98 passengers, and the further stretched E195, 2.41m (7ft 11in) longer than the E190, seats 108. Both are offered in standard and long range variants.


BA CityFlyer, the wholly owned regional subsidiary of British Airways, selected the E-Jets as a key element of its fleet strategy. Luke Hayhoe, general manager, commercial at BA CityFlyer says the airline reviewed a number of options, which included extending the life and keeping its previous Avro RJ fleet, or replacing the Avro RJs with either Q400s or E170/190s. “At the time of the order there were no other suitable aircraft types that could operate into our base at London City Airport (LCY), with its steep approach requirements.”


Hayhoe says the attributes that led to the selection of the E-Jets were efficiency, better operational performance for the short runway at LCY, operational reliability, passenger comfort with the 2 x 2 seats, large windows, and a spacious cabin with generous carry-on baggage space. “The Q400 was considered and while the fuel efficiency was of course better, the type would constrain capacity and would not have been able to operate from LCY to the furthest destinations on the BA CityFlyer network,” he adds.


In 2007, Bombardier launched the CRJ900 NextGen to replace the initial -900 version. The NextGen model has improved economics and a new cabin common to the CRJ700 NextGen and CRJ1000 NextGen. The -900 NextGen is powered by the General Electric CF34-87C5 turbofan, with a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.83 (882 km/h).


According to Bombardier, the CRJ900 NextGen aircraft offers next-generation efficiency, performance and passenger comfort, with a seating capacity of up to 88 seats. Like the other members of the CRJ aircraft family, there was particular emphasis on the lightweight and advanced aerodynamics in order to deliver improved efficiency and reduced operating costs to airlines. The combination of larger winglets and other enhancements since the launch of the earlier CRJ900 were incorporated into the CRJ900 NextGen to boost airfield performance and fuel consumption.


African operator RwandAir successfully integrated pre-owned CRJ200 aircraft, established a base and has now grown to become a customer of new aircraft. The Kigali-based airline recently took delivery  of its first CRJ900 NextGen as part of an order of two with a further two options.


“We are very proud to introduce the CRJ900 NextGen aircraft to East Africa,” said John Mirenge, CEO at RwandAir, during the handover in Montreal. “Our 50-seat CRJ200 aircraft has helped expand our markets to the point where larger capacity aircraft are required to meet passenger demand. The CRJ900 NextGen jetliner is a natural progression from the CRJ200 aircraft that has served us so well. In addition, the larger aircraft have a two-class, 75-seat interior that will allow us to offer a premium service.”

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