Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

British Regional Airlines (BRAL) expects to finalise a $500 million order for up to 20 large regional jets by the end of the year to enable it to begin a fleet renewal programme by early 2003.

Terry Liddiard, managing director of British Airways franchise operator BRAL and independent Isle of Man-based regional Manx Airlines, says the airline is evaluating three types with the intention of a selection by year end.

"We have a requirement for a jet seating from 70-110 and are looking at the Embraer ERJ-170/190, Fairchild Dornier 728JET and [BAE Systems] Avro RJX," he says. The Bombardier CRJ700/900 is not included as the family does not extend far enough in size, he adds.

"We need to replace our [BAe] ATPs. The leases expire over the next couple of years, and eventually our [BAe] 146s. We also need a larger aircraft for routes that outgrow our 50-seat [Embraer] ERJ-145s," he says.

BRAL operates 40 aircraft, including 12 BAe Jetstream 41s, 16 ERJ-145s, 10 ATPs and three 146s. Manx operates four ATPs, one 146 and one J41. Liddiard expects to place an initial order for around 20 new jets, plus options, with deliveries from late 2002 or early 2003.

Although Liddiard says the final selection has not been made, the company has close connections with Embraer through its operation of ERJ-145s, and the ERJ-170/190 is thought to be the leading candidate. Liddiard acknowledges the Brazilian aircraft has advantages over the 728JET, including more cargo space, earlier availability and a four-abreast rather than five-abreast cabin.

Liddiard says that while the RJX has the advantage of earlier availability, the economics of the 70-seat version are uncompetitive with its rivals.

BRAL and fellow BA regional operators Brymon Airways and CityFlyer Express all have requirements for new 70-110 seat jets.

• BRAL took delivery of its 16th ERJ-145 from the aircraft manufacturer's Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, facility in late August. The 49-seat aircraft will operate Manchester-London Stansted services, replacing a J41. BRAL has 23 firm orders for the ERJ-145 plus two options, with the remaining seven aircraft to be delivered over the next two years.

Source: Flight International