BAE Systems says there will be a four-fold increase in the number of BAe146/Avro RJs operating in the Gulf region within the next six months.

Speaking at the Financing Aviation in the Middle East Conference in Dubai last week, Andy Whelan, sales executive for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft said: “Until recently, there were four BAe 146/Avro RJs operating in the region, but new business won by BAE Systems together with other transactions by third parties means that up to 15 aircraft will be operational by late Spring next year.”

This marked increase is indicative of the growing interest in regional aircraft in the Middle East as a whole, says Whelan. He says regional aircraft allow airlines to develop and grow thinner and shorter routes, while maintaining frequency. They are typically available on shorter lead times than larger commercial jets and they offer utility beyond the traditional scheduled airline passenger roles.

In particular, the recently re-launched BAe 146QT freighter offers a unique 10-12 tonne payload to the region’s cargo operators, which currently operate a diverse fleet of converted regional turboprop and jet aircraft.

Currently the BAe 146/Avro RJ fleet in the region comprises two RJ85s with the Bahrain Defence Force on a variety of transport duties, including VIP roles; a VIP RJ70 with the Amiri Royal Flight of Abu Dhabi; and a RJ85 with Royal Jet, operated in a 42- seat first class configuration for executive charter work.

Whelan told the conference that BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has recently sold an Avro RJ100 into the region to an undisclosed customer for delivery in January 2008. The aircraft will be converted to a VVIP configuration. And two other new operators have committed to the aircraft in recent months. The biggest is Palm Aviation of Abu Dhabi, which has acquired the seven BAe 146-300s previously operated by China Northwest Airlines. Delivery of the first aircraft is planned for the end of the year and it is understood this too will be converted into a VIP configuration.

The Dubai Air Wing has bought three RJ85s, previously operated by Mesaba Airlines in the USA. These aircraft are expected to be placed in service from Spring 2008 in a variety of roles, one of which will be as a VVIP aircraft. This means three Gulf State governments (Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai) have chosen the Avro RJ as their preferred regional VIP jet transport.

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Source: Flight Daily News