ATLANTIC COAST Airlines (ACA) has announced a $50 million bond issue designed to help support the introduction of regional jets into the fleet and the repurchase of shares owned by aircraft manufacturer British Aerospace, which had been obliged to bail out the airline.

Washington DC-based ACA, which operates as a United Express feeder, was on the brink of financial collapse three years ago, but its fortunes have since been turned around under a new management team headed by Kerry Skeen.

The turboprop fleet was restructured around the BAe-built AI(R) Jetstream 31/41, replacing the Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8 and Embraer EMB-120. As part of the restructuring, BAe made a $20 million capital injection into the airline, which is now to be repaid.

The carrier is now back in the black, reporting record $19 million net profits over the last financial year, and is poised to move into 50-seat regional-jet operations, signing a deal for 12 firm orders and 36 options with Bombardier. The first Canadair Regional Jets are scheduled to enter service in September.

ACA hopes to operate the new aircraft on United Express routes, but it is prepared to fly them as an independent carrier if United Airlines is unable to reach an agreement with its own pilots which would enable regional affiliates to fly jet-powered aircraft.

Source: Flight International