Polish flag carrier LOT on 17 March became the first airline to place the Embraer 170 into revenue service as it prepares to revamp its European fleet and make a decision on phasing out its Boeing 767 widebodies by the end of this year.

The 170 was originally due to enter service in December 2002, but certification was delayed several times by problems in development of the aircraft's Honeywell Primus Epic avionics, and more recently software verification for the Honeywell-developed fly-by-wire flight-control system.

LOT is due to receive a total of six 70-seat 170s in 2004 - the first four of which are being leased from GE Capital Aviation Services - and another four next year. It holds options on a further 11 aircraft that can be swapped for any model in the four-member 170/190 family 18 months before delivery.

"There will be some [98-seat] 190s in our fleet, but the proportion depends on how the network develops," says LOT network manager Marek Serafin.

LOT is launching two routes in the next two months from Warsaw - to Venice and Dublin - with the 170. Other probable 170 routes include business destinations such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Rome and Stockholm, and Bucharest, Sofia and St Petersburg in eastern Europe.

Four 737-500s on operating lease will leave LOT's fleet during the first half of 2004, and three of its 14 ERJ-145s will leave next year, as 170s are progressively added.

LOT chief executive Marek Grabarek says the Polish flag carrier aims to introduce a replacement for its two 767-200ERs and three -300ERs in 2006, adding that secondhand aircraft are under consideration. The airline plans to participate in a joint evaluation of the 7E7 with its Star Alliance partners, suggesting that used aircraft could serve as an interim solution until the new Boeing product becomes available in 2008. The Airbus A330 is also being studied. Whether an order is placed this year "will depend on the financial standing of the company", says Grabarek.


Source: Flight International