BAE Systems Regional Aircraft is aiming to increase its lease and maintenance work on non-BAEaircraft, following the delivery of the final production BAE airliner in November to Finnish carrier Blue1.

BAE says it now plans to grow by brokering leasing deals, issuing maintenance contracts and providing remarketing assistance for non-BAE types. The company will also offer power-by-the-hour deals on third party aircraft.

BAE has signed a six-year deal with AvCraft to provide spares and logistics in Washington DC for the Dornier 328 and 328JET, and will act as the link between AvCraft and operators from the middle of 2004. BAE hopes to build on this kind of relationship with airlines to grow its third party portfolio and customer base, says senior vice-president of asset management at BAE Systems Regional Aircraft Paul Stirling.

The company was awarded lease management contracts during 2003 on 22 of United Airlines' Airbus A320 family aircraft, and 18 American Airlines A300-600Rs. It has secured a mandate to remarket US Airways' Boeing 757s as well as several A320 family aircraft for an undisclosed customer, says Stirling. The US Airways 757s were remarketed to Wilmington Trust in a leaseback deal brokered by BAE.

BAE believes "strategic pricing" offered by Embraer and Bombardier on recent regional jet deals is unsustainable. The lease market for regional aircraft will lead aircraft sales as airlines look for economic alternatives, says Stirling. "Airlines have also lost their major forms of finance, as US funds, German banks and export agencies look to reduce exposure, so operating lessors like us may be the only people willing to finance certain deals," he adds.

BAE manages a portfolio of 70 BAe 146s and 39 Avro RJs and says operators are unlikely to cut the aircraft from their fleets in the short term as there are no aircraft with similar short field performance. BAE Asset Management says its focus for 2004 is eastern Europe, where there are around 200 ex-Soviet and older Western types needing replacement before the European Union expands into the region.

The company is also licensing Romanian aerospace manufacturer Romaero to build the large door conversion kits for the ATP turboprop, for which demand from cargo airlines currently outstrips supply, says Stirling.

Air Astana, run as a joint venture between BAESystems and the Kazakh government, has started twice weekly flights to London Heathrow from Almaty. Air Astana was launched in September 2001, started operations in May 2002 and flies three Boeing 737-700/800s and two 757-200s to destinations in Kazakhstan and internationally in Asia and Europe.

Source: Flight International