Swiss to lease four E190s as bridge from Avros to CSeries jets

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Swiss International Air Lines will lease four Embraer 190s from its partner Helvetic Airways as interim replacement for its ageing BAE Systems Avro regional jet fleet.

The mainline carrier is planning to retire four aircraft out of its 20-strong Avro RJ100 fleet between December and early 2015 to avoid maintenance costs for heavy C-checks, which the regional jets would need to undergo to remain in service, Swiss says.

The wholly owned Lufthansa subsidiary has ordered 30 Bombardier CSeries aircraft as replacement for the Avros. But after multiple programme delays, uncertainty surrounds the in-development type's delivery schedule, under which handovers were envisioned beginning in the second half of 2015.

Bombardier's flight-test fleet has been grounded since 29 May following an engine failure on one of the aircraft.

Swiss has expanded an existing wet-lease agreement to include four E190s as replacement for the decommissioned Avros, says Helvetic's finance chief Tobias Pogorevc.

Helvetic's fleet comprises six Fokker 100s and a single Airbus A319, but it has also wet-leased an E195 from UK carrier Flybe.

Zurich-based Helvetic will provide the four E190s on an ACMI basis. But the aircraft will be flown by Swiss pilots, says Pogorevc. Once Swiss has started taking CSeries deliveries, its pilots will convert to flying the new type, while Helvetic will train its own pilots for the E190s, he adds.

No decision has yet been made about the source for the E190s. Helvetic is negotiating with various operators and lessors for the type, says Pogorevc.

The carrier has been a wet-lease partner to Swiss since 2006. Four Fokker 100s are being operated on the latter's behalf, while the rest of the fleet is used for Helvetic's own scheduled flights and charter services. The wet-lease contract with Swiss will expire in 2017.

Pogorevc says that Helvetic would "probably" use the E190 for Fokker 100 replacement after Swiss receives its CSeries fleet. But he stresses that no decision has yet been taken about the fleet replacement. The six Fokker 100s have an average age of 22 years, Flightglobal's Ascend Fleets database shows.

Swiss says it has no plans to expand the E190 lease arrangement with Helvetic beyond the four aircraft.