European operators of 70-seater push manufacturer to ensure reliability issues are resolved in modification package

Bombardier is coming under increasing pressure from European CRJ700 operators to ensure that its latest modification programme for the 70-seater resolves reliability issues that have dogged it since its introduction three years ago.

The manufacturer will introduce a second improvement package covering four modifications this year - dubbed reliability improvement modification programme (RIMP)-2 - to rectify ongoing issues that were not resolved by the original RIMP-1 package implemented last year. Problems have centred on the CRJ700's fuel and hydraulics systems, which have both suffered from leakages.

Air France-owned regional Brit Air, which was CRJ700 launch operator in January 2001 and has 10 in service, has delayed delivery of its remaining two orders pending an improvement in reliability, which is running at 97.5% (using a measuring system that only takes account of the initial technical failure). The reliability of the Brittany-based airline's CRJ700 fleet is such that two aircraft, rather than one, have to be held on back-up duty each day.

"RIMP-2 should fix all the problems, but it will have taken three years to resolve them," says Brit Air managing director Alain Huberdeau. But he warns that if Bombardier fails to put the aircraft right with these modifications, plans to gradually replace the airline's 19 50-seat CRJ100s with CRJ700s could be dropped. "Our preferred choice is to stay with the CRJ700, but if it continues to be a problem we could cancel our remaining orders and acquire more secondhand Fokker 100s for growth," he says, adding that six of the 50-seaters are due to leave the fleet by 2006.

Cologne-based Lufthansa CityLine, which operates 20 CRJ700s, is also pushing Bombardier to help it improve reliability, which is "around 98%", and the daily utilisation, which is 2h short of the 10h target. "We and Bombardier agree that its products need to have the same reliability as Airbus and Boeing aircraft: 99.5-99.8%," says CityLine managing director Karl-Heinz Kopfle.

Huberdeau is disappointed with the support Bombardier provides in Europe. "We can wait one, two or three days for spares or special tooling to fix a problem," he says.


Source: Flight International