Air New Zealand regional carrier Mount Cook Airlines plans to place a firm order in the coming months for 13-17 regional aircraft and is considering the ATR 72-500/600, Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Embraer 190.

It will be "another couple of months" before a decision is made, says Mount Cook general manager Mark Pitt, adding that "we are having weekly meetings at the moment and are getting down to the final stages".

He says it "will go to the board in two months' time".

 ATR-72 500
 © ATR

Pitt says the 90-seat E-190 regional jet is being considered because this aircraft type would give Mount Cook the capability to start serving overseas destinations such as Australia, Norfolk Island and the South Pacific.

But he says Mount Cook's parent ANZ will ultimately decide whether the regional carrier expands internationally.

In terms of the number of aircraft, "it is safe to say it will be 13-17 aircraft [on firm order], but we need to plan for the long term, so we would also need to have enough options for the next 10-15 years".

Because the carrier is trying to meet its fleet requirements for the next 10-15 years, Pitt says it is also looking at new-generation turboprops in development, namely the 90-seat Bombardier Q400X and a new larger capacity ATR 72.

Mount Cook currently operates a fleet of 11 ATR 72s and no longer has any ATRs on order, but according to Flight's ACAS database Mount Cook's sister carrier Air Nelson has options for 13 Q400s.

Air Nelson operates Dash Q300s and has no intention of operating Q400s, but took on the Q400 options in case Mount Cook wants to exercise them.