SAS is concerned about the powerplant reliability issues as it prepares to select an aircraft type on which to base a future regional operation.

The Scandinavian carrier has indicated that the Airbus A220 and Embraer E2 family are the candidates under consideration.

But both are powered by versions of the Pratt & Whitney geared-fan engine – the PW1500G for the A220 and the PW1900G for the E2.

Several recent engine shutdown incidents, affecting Swiss and Air Baltic A220s, have led to investigations into the root cause and regulatory directives governing powerplant operation.

The E2 is also affected by the directives owing to the PW1900G’s similar architecture.

A220 E2 combination

Source: Airbus/Embraer

Both the A220 and the E2 family use similar versions of the Pratt & Whitney geared-fan powerplant

SAS chief executive Rickard Gustafson says the airline wants to replace the Boeing 737-700s and Airbus A319s which have been serving regional routes within the core business, and set up a separate regional division with a single-type fleet.

He says the 737s and A319s will leave the fleet by around 2022-23.

“We need to have a replacement up and running to avoid shrinking the operation and leaving regions unserved,” he says.

SAS has sought to locate the regional operation in Scandinavia, rather than in a “perceived low-salary environment” outside of the region, says Gustafson, in order to ensure that the services can be scheduled effectively.

He says the company is hoping to “clear out” remaining prerequisites for the new operation over the course of this year, giving it a “clear path” to 2022.

While aircraft availability is “tricky” given the “very tight” time schedule, Gustafson is “fairly confident” that there are opportunities in the market.

But he points out: “It’s not just availability of aircraft but the reliability of the aircraft.

“Those technologies available today – the A220 and Embraer option – both still have engine issues to resolve before we feel that they can operate with the robustness we anticipate and expect.”