Herman De Wulf/ANTWERP

IN a bid to boost services and spread its business, Belgian regional airline VLM, of Antwerp is seeking to move up to a jet-powered fleet with the acquisition of Fokker 70s by 2000.

The carrier has a fleet of four Fokker 50 turboprops, and new managing director Christian Heinemann says that, although turbo- prop economics are good on short routes, they become less competitive against a jet airliner when flying longer routes, such as charters.

The airline also says that it is experiencing a capacity problem on its Rotterdam-London City route following its codesharing agreement with KLM uk.

Heinemann says that, as VLMoperates from short runways, it needs an aircraft with good field performance. "The Fokker 70 suits our needs ideally-I can see a mixed fleet of four Fokker 50s and two Fokker 70s," he says. If Fokker 70s cannot be secured in time, other candidates include the Aero International (Regional) Avro RJ85, Embraer RJ-145, and Bombardier's Canadair Regional Jet.

Significantly, VLM's owner, Dutch businessman Jaap Rozen Jacobson, is involved in trying to resurrect production of Fokker aircraft, with the founding of a new company, Rekkof Restart.

Heinemann says that, although the acquisition of a jet is a priority, he has also set other targets, including an increase in charter operations (which represent only 10% of VLM's turnover), more scheduled destinations and adding partners to the existing links with KLM uk, Lufthansa and Sabena.

Taiwanese domestic carrier Formosa Airlines has signed a letter of intent with Rekkof for a new Fokker 100. The new company hopes to make a decision shortly on restarting work.

Source: Flight International