FARNBOROUGH: Bombardier sees scope changes opening door to CRJ orders

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Bombardier sees an opportunity to win new orders for its larger CRJ aircraft from US regional airlines as they renew their fleets.

"We are waiting for US [mainline] carriers to get their scope issues approved," says Stephen Kalhok, product manager of programme planning development for commercial aircraft at the manufacturer.

Bombardier has identified orders for around 450 regional jets in the US that will need to be placed in the next 18 months, of which it hopes to win around 50%.

Delta Air Lines' pilots approved a new contract that allows it to add 70 76-seat regional jets on 29 June. It is expected to finalise its options for 36 Embraer 175s and order an additional 34 large regional jets in the coming months, once it closes its deal to buy 88 Boeing 717-200s from Southwest Airlines' subsidiary AirTran Airways.

American Airlines' pilots will begin voting later this month on a new contract that would allow the carrier's regional fleet to include up to 195 regional jets with 66- to 79-seats by 2016. It presently has none of the smaller aircraft in its fleet.

US Airways' scope contract "lends well" to the CRJ1000 in a multi-class configuration with first-, premium-economy- and economy-class seating, says Kalhok. The airline can contract regional carriers to fly aircraft with up to 88-seats, he explains. The largest regional aircraft that the airline flies are the 79-seat CRJ900 and 80-seat E-175.

A merger between US Airways and American, which the former is actively pursuing, could create additional opportunities for large regional jets in the market.

United Airlines is not expected to look at new larger regional aircraft until the leases on its existing 50-seat fleet begin to run out in a few years, adds Kalhok.