American Eagle Airlines has begun to phase out its massive Saab 340 fleet, with the entry into service of the new Embraer ERJ-135 and gradual transition to a predominantly turbofan-powered operation by 2005.

The AMR-owned regional carrier has put the first nine of its 115 Swedish twin-turboprops on the market for disposal. The aircraft, eight of which have already been withdrawn from service, are among 90 owned by American Eagle. It has another 25 on lease from Saab until 2007.

American Eagle's recently acquired Business Express operation is also putting its 40 Saab 340A/Bs on the market over the next two years, around half in the next six to 12 months as it rolls over to new ERJ-135s. A strong candidate to take some of the surplus Saabs is Chautauqua Airlines which is expected to consolidate its turboprop fleet solely around the 340 (Flight International, 8-14 September).

American Eagle has so far absorbed five of the 95 ERJ-135s ordered and plans to extend use of the 37-seat jet to its Boston hub from January. It will replace turboprops on flights to Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia. It has also taken delivery of 39 of the 50 larger 50-seat ERJ-145s ordered.

Industry observers suggest American Eagle is a strong candidate to take the newly announced 44-seat ERJ-140 to optimise its use of regional jets. One likely option would be to convert some of the 95 ERJ-135 options American Eagle holds to the larger jet to replace some of its 35 ATR 42s. The carrier says it is "too preliminary" to talk about the ERJ-140 and that it "does not plan any changes."

The carrier is to begin taking delivery of 25 70-seat Bombardier CRJ-700s from 2001, when phase-out of 43 ATR 72s will start.

Source: Flight International