FARNBOROUGH: CityJet aims for Avro retirement in 2015

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CityJet owner Intro Aviation will decide by October on a successor model for its BAE Systems Avro RJ85 regional jets as it aims to start retiring the four-engined legacy type in late 2015.

German turnaround specialist Intro – which took over Dublin-based CityJet and its Belgian subsidiary VLM from Air France-KLM in April – is evaluating the Bombardier CSeries, Embraer 190 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 as replacement options for the Avros.

A decision is to be reached in September or October at the latest, Intro founder and chairman Hans Rudolf Wohrl told Flightglobal at Farnborough air show. The deal will comprise 20 firm and 10 optional order, he says.

The “simplest solution” would be to acquire used Embraer 190s as the type is widely available and certificated for the steep approach at London’s City airport, he says. CityJet is using the gateway as a major hub under its new business plan. But Wohrl adds that the aircraft is from the “past”.

The CSeries or Superjet would be more modern solutions, and lead to factory-new aircraft. But the CSeries is embroiled in programme delays, while the Superjet has not been approved for London City.

Both Bombardier and Sukhoi have made assurances that their respective aircraft would fulfil the steep approach requirements, says Wohrl. But guarantees will need to be put in place in case the approvals cannot be secured as planned and the Avro replacement is delayed.

A further issue is the manufacturer’s capability to support the aircraft when production ends. While Bombardier and Embraer are established players in terms of dealing with equipment obsolescence, Wohrl says that is not quite as clear yet for the Superjet.

Intro appears to be a in strong negotiating position for both the CSeries and Superjet, due to former’s programme woes and the lack of any western European customers for the latter. But Wohrl downplays his bargaining power, saying that there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.

Intro wants to retire the Avro fleet in 2016, because engine manufacturer Honeywell is terminating its by-the-hour maintenance programme. Supporting the powerplants on a time-and-materials basis is expected to result in a sharp increase in MRO expense that renders continued use of the aircraft uneconomical.