Carrier may scrap turboprops as it looks to plug gap between mainline and regional fleet

US Airways is looking at the stretched Embraer 190/195 regional jet to plug the seat capacity gap between its planned new MidAtlantic Airlines-operated fleet of smaller 170/175s and the bottom end of the mainline Airbus A320 fleet created by the retirement of its 100-seat Fokker 100s.

"The 190/195 is attractive to us and we're contemplating an order," says David Siegel, US Airways president. The high degree of cockpit and systems commonality between the 170/175 and the two larger 98- to 108-seat members of the family, combined with the ability to "flow-up" MidAtlantic crews to the 190/195, "went into our calculus when we made our decision", adds Siegel.

US Airways' recent order for 85 170/175s, plus 50 options, included another 140 options for the smaller Embraer ERJ-145 which it has the flexibility to convert to the 190/195, according to Daniel McDonald, airline vice-president fleet planning. The airline has a potential requirement for as many as 100 aircraft as an eventual replacement for its fleet of Boeing 737-300/400s.

Siegel warns a decision is at least two to three years away and finding funding will be critical. The 190/195, like the 170/175, would be configured for two classes, but represents a smaller gauge of aircraft than the current 737. An alternative, depending on market conditions, would be additional Airbus A319s or smaller A318s.

A nearer-term airline board decision scheduled for the third quarter will be on converting some of the current 85 170s on order to slightly larger 75-seat 175s. The expectation is that the 175 will make up around half the order, which allows US Airways to maximise the number of seats permissible under its scope clause agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association.

The number of turboprops in the US Airways Express fleet with Allegheny and Piedmont is expected to drop over time to as few as 30 Bombardier Dash 8s. "We're evaluating whether to eliminate the turboprops," says McDonald. The 30 Fairchild Dornier 328s flown by wholly owned subsidiary PSA will be cut from September with the return of the first two turboprops to owner Millenium. The type will be gone by the end of next year.

Source: Flight International