Gunter Endres/LONDON

BRITISH AIRWAYS IS considering bringing up to 18 British Aerospace 146s into its fleet as noise regulations start to bite on European routes flown to by its UK regional service.

The airline will have to stop its Boeing 737-200s flying between Birmingham and Zurich this winter because of noise. With other provincial routes under threat, BA could make a quick decision on a 100-seat-plus Stage 3 regional jet.

Speculation has been rife on the airline's intention to re-activate some, if not all, of the 18 USAir 146-200As in the Mojave Desert aircraft store in California, but recent events indicate that this is now more than just rumour.

British Airways Air Trading executives have visited Mojave to look at the 146s, and it is also believed that BA managers have been to Australia to check on Qantas Airlink, a franchised regional operation flown by National Jet Systems with eight 146-100/200s.

BA Regional managing director George Cooper says that the airline wants to replace, one-for-one, the 18 Stage 2 Boeing 737-200s it operates from Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.

Choosing the USAir 146s is the cheapest option, as it would generate revenue from a dormant asset through its shareholding in the US carrier. Views are being sought from engineering companies on the cost of bringing the aircraft back into service, but it is unlikely that all 18 could be re-activated.

In any case, BA is understood to want only nine of the 146-200As alongside nine larger 146-300s - although its most urgent requirement is for six of the smaller aircraft. British Aerospace's Asset Management Organisation confirms that it is in discussions with British Airways, but says that all passenger 146-300s in its portfolio are leased until two Crossair aircraft come back on to the market in March 1996.

BA says that the 146 are only one of several options being considered. If the re-equipment decision should go against the 146, the Fokker 100, already being operated in BA livery by associate companies TAT European Airlines and Deutsche BA, is the most obvious alternative, although availability could be a problem. Hushkitting the 737s can also not be ruled out.

Source: Flight International