Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bombardier says decisions on whether to proceed with the 90-seat CRJ-900 and 110-seat BRJ-X regional jets will be taken independently, within months of each other, next year.

The Canadian company is offering the CRJ-900 to airlines, but will not have the authority to offer the BRJ-X before the start of next year, says Trung Ngo, vice-president marketing, Bombardier Regional Aircraft.

Bombardier has introduced the CRJ-900, says Ngo, because discussions with airlines on their 90- to 110-seat requirements showed there were two distinct markets. "We could not come up with one product for both and not hurt the airlines," he says.

The CRJ-900, a "minimum change" stretch of the 70-seat CRJ-700 under development, is aimed at a market estimated at 800 aircraft over the next 20 years, mainly to replace British Aerospace 146s and Fokker 100s operated by regional and mainline carriers.

The all-new BRJ-X, meanwhile, is intended to replace early Boeing 737s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s mainly operated by mainline carriers, a market Bombardier estimates at 2,000 aircraft over two decades. The BRJ-X is scheduled for certification in 2003 and entry into service in 2004.

The company says a CRJ-900 launch in the first quarter of next year would lead to a first flight a year later, with deliveries starting in the second quarter of 2002. This would be "at least two years ahead" of competing 90-seaters from Embraer and Fairchild. Development will cost $140 million.

Changes from the CRJ-700 include two fuselage plugs, strengthened wing and landing gear, larger underfloor baggage hold with additional door and two additional overwing exits.

The CRJ-900 will have the lowest operating cost of any 90-seater, Ngo says, because it is lighter, at 37,420kg (82,500lb), and requires less engine power. The extra 5-10% thrust needed is available from the CRJ-700's General Electric CF34-8C turbofans, without going to the -10 growth engine, under development for the competing 90-seaters.

Ngo says the CRJ-900 allows Bombardier to cover the 90-seat market "with minimum cost" while refocusing the BRJ-X on a 108-seat mixed-class configuration. The company will build a 90-seat BRJ "if forced to", he says.

Because of scope clause limits in the USA, Ngo says the CRJ-900 is aimed at the European market. Bombardier has the resources to develop both aircraft with risk-sharing partners, he says, adding that "unless there is a problem with partners, there will be a BRJ."

Source: Flight International