West Air launches cargo CRJ as Cascade aims for kit deal

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By Darren Shannon in Washington DC & David Kaminski-Morrow in London

Bombardier closes on conversion contract for freighter variant of 50-seater

Bombardier is in talks with British Colombia-based Cascade Aerospace to design, certificate and build the CRJ200 cargo conversion kit for the package freighter (PF) programme that Swedish freight operator West Air Europe launched last week.

Gothenburg-based West Air Europe is acquiring two ex-Lufthansa CRJ200s for conversion to PF configuration. The cargo airline, which has an all-turboprop fleet of 17 ATR 72s, BAe ATPs and HS748s, is expected to introduce its first CRJ200 PF in April. West Air plans to add its first jet, an ex-Ansett BAe 146, in October this year.

crj200f

"We require the Bombardier CRJ200 PF to fulfil specific customer demands for higher than turboprop speeds on routes of more than 500nm [925km]," says West Air Europe president Gustaf Thureborn.

Negotiations between Bombardier and Cascade on developing the conversion kit continue, but are at an advanced stage, says a source close to the talks.

The kit, which will be sold exclusively by Bombardier, includes the stripping out of all passenger elements of the cabin, the installation of protective flooring, fuselage liners, ceiling panels and fire and smoke suppressants, as well as some minor structural modifications, says the source.

Parcels will be loaded through the existing forward passenger door. In the all-cargo configuration, the CRJ200 PF will have a cargo volume of roughly 48.2m3 (1,700ft3) and a payload of 6,350kg.

At 24,000kg, maximum take-off weight will be the same as the high-gross-weight version of the CRJ200. Cascade will have to obtain supplemental type certificate for its kit.

The conversion of a CRJ200 is understood to take 30 days and the unit list price is estimated to be around $500,000. Bombardier believes that there could be demand for up 50 PF conversions for its 50-seat jet.

"Since the introduction of the concept, considerable interest has been expressed by many prospective customers," says Rod Sheridan, Bombardier Regional Aircraft vice president Asset Management.

Meanwhile, West Air is also expanding its ATP fleet with several more examples of the turbo­prop, including three aircraft acquired from Danish regional carrier Sun-Air.