Ansett Australia is to begin retiring its Fokker F28 fleet, scrapping five 1000- and 3000-series aircraft by the end of the year.

Seven Fokker F28-4000s and five Boeing 727-200s, all due for retirement under Stage 3 noise rules in 2002, will remain in the fleet, but their earlier retirement may result from fleet studies now under way by American consultancy AMR.

The lost capacity will be replaced by acquiring a Boeing 767 and an additional Boeing 737-300 originally destined for leasing associate AWAS. An additional five Airbus A320s already ordered are expected to replace the Boeing 727s.

Ansett says that concerns about maintaining fleet-wide cabin and service standards, as well as growing concern over noise around Sydney's Kingsford-Smith Airport, were among reasons for the decision to scrap the F28s.

The carrier has not yet detailed its plans for replacing the twinjets, which are used on long, thin regional routes serving airfields unsuitable for heavier aircraft, or in route development roles. It is likely that wholly owned regional subsidiaries Skywest, in Western Australia, and Kendell Airlines, in the eastern states, will have increased roles.

Ansett's under-utilised Fokker 50 fleet, three of which had already been transferred to Skywest, to operate previous Ansett mainline services, is also likely to find better utilisation.

Kendell is expected to announce orders for a further two Saab 340Bs, with an option on a third. There has been no comment yet on the status of the carrier's two Saab 2000 options.

Source: Flight International