Deliveries of the improved Saab 340B+ began with MSN 360 in 1994, and were received by Wings West Airlines. In addition to wing root design changes and a number of cabin interior enhancements, the 340B+ has an active noise control system to reduce interior noise. The changes to the wing root allow for the installation of wingtip extensions, which improve hot and high performance but add about 120lbs of weight and, once installed, cannot be removed. The 340B+ is a marketing designation – for all practical purposes the 340B and 340B+ have no operational differences.
Production of the Saab 340 family ended in 1999 with MSN 459 after a total of 456 aircraft of all variants had been delivered. Of those 456 Saab 340A/B/B+ aircraft, 253 remain in active service, with 75 – about 23% of the overall fleet – parked. The geographic distribution of the type is split evenly between North America (30% of the fleet), Europe (28% of the fleet), and Asia-Pacific (27% of the fleet). The Saab 340 series competes in the 30-37 seat category with the BAe Jetstream 41, the Bombardier Dash 8 Series 100, the Dornier 328 and the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia.
For many years an entry-level segment for regional operators, the 30-seat market segment came under significant pressure in the previous decade due to several factors. First, there was a general movement away from turboprops to regional jets by first tier carriers – especially in the US – which resulted in a decline in demand for most turboprop models. Second, there was a general decline in liquidity for used turboprops, as lenders’ appetite for the aircraft fell, a situation exacerbated by the global economic recession of 2007-8. Third, relaxation of airline scope clauses – primarily in the US and Europe – has allowed carriers’ regional affiliates to operate larger aircraft and thus realise the revenue-generating benefits afforded by these larger aircraft. Finally, by 2009, production of 30-seat turboprops had ceased with the closure of the DHC8-100/200 line.
Since the beginning of this decade, the market for the Saab 340 series has been somewhat challenged. The number of parked aircraft has generally declined since 2011 – holding at an average of 70-75 aircraft in storage. Availability is generally moderate as well, with 18 aircraft (or 7% of the extant fleet) on the market as of February 2017, and there is a reasonably active trading market for the aircraft.
Passenger-to-freighter conversion programmes are available from both the OEM and third parties for the Saab 340A/B. The converted Saab 340 has proved relatively popular with 44 aircraft currently operating in a pure freighter role. The aircraft boasts the ability to carry a maximum payload of 8,500lbs or 1,280ft3 of cargo, up to a range of 480nm. Such secondary roles for the type enhance value retention, as do OEM MTOW upgrades and life extension programmes, which bring the design life to 90,000 flight cycles.
The longevity of the Saab 340 is further supported by the availability of a cockpit avionics and EFIS display upgrade, aligning the aircraft with new- generation air traffic control requirements, and reducing OEW by 150lbs.
ICF’s research indicates that, similar to most smaller – 19- and 30-seat – turboprops, sale prices for Saab 340B/B+s are driven mainly by aircraft condition and not vintage, according to inclusion on GE’s engine ECMP (Engine Care Maintenance Programme). Trading prices for Saab 340A aircraft on ECMP lie at around $1.1 million while 340Bs are generally in the $1.6 to $1.7 million range, assuming an aircraft in refurbished condition. Saab 340B+s trade for somewhat higher prices, between $2 and $2.1 million, reflecting the increased performance and installed noise suppression system.
Lease rates are also driven mainly by aircraft condition, with monthly rates ranging from $23,000 to $25,000 for 340Bs and $29,000 to $31,000 for 340B+s. The leasing market for Saab 340A aircraft is fairly inactive, with operators generally preferring to purchase aircraft outright, although ICF has seen occasional lease rate transactions of around $15,000 per month. In general, the Saab 340 represents a strong value proposition for regional airlines as an inexpensive modern-technology aircraft with few real competitors, enjoying good operating costs, performance and market liquidity.
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