Embraer predicts that between 250 and 270 regional jets in the 50-seat range will be displaced from the US fleet within the next five years, after admitting that North American airlines "bought more" of the type than required.

Speaking to analysts today in New York, VP market intelligence – airline market Luiz Chiessi said that as US majors cull capacity in the face of sky-high fuel prices, 50-seaters are being targeted, with up to 184 already earmarked to be pulled down.

Small regional jets, which have served as the backbone of the US hub-and-spoke system, are now less essential to the US fleet as market constraints such as pilot scope clauses have loosened, permitting the operation of larger-capacity regional jets, says Chiessi.

The Brazilian manufacturer continues to maintain the position that secondary markets, including Africa, Mexico, South America and Russia, will assume some of the used aircraft lift. Russia and other CIS states, in particular, need a replacement for more than 458 aircraft, including Tupolev Tu-134s and Yakovlev Yak-40s, says Chiessi.

Embraer recently secured Russian certification for its three-member ERJ-145 regional jet family. The clearance means the family members can operate across Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Chiessi notes that Ukrainian operator Dniproavia already operates a fleet of ERJ-145s. The carrier secured a waiver from the Ukrainian aviation authorities, permitting it to operate the type while it awaited final certification.

China will also add ERJs, but these will be new types, says Chiessi. A total 41 ERJ-145s from an original 50-aircraft order being manufactured under Embraer’s joint venture in China are destined for Chinese operator Hainan Airlines.

As previously revealed, some of the ERJ-135s being slashed from the US fleet are likely to be converted into corporate aircraft. The ERJ-135 is the basic platform that Embraer uses for its Legacy 600 executive jet.

Chiessi stresses, however, that the Brazilian manufacturer does not have plans for the E-135 to compete with its Legacy 600. "Converting them [ERJ-135s] into pure executive aircraft – we don’t believe that is worthwhile to be done unless someone applies for a STC [supplemental type certificate] and we cannot avoid this."

Instead, plans are in place to transfer the ERJs into "shuttle aircraft" for corporations. These will be "less sophisticated" than classic executive jets, and seat about 25 passengers.

Additionally, Embraer is in the process of developing two service bulletins to add capacity to its 37-seat ERJ-135 and 44-seat ERJ-140, the latter of which was developed specifically to meet American Eagle Airlines’ scope clause restrictions.

Chiessi says the idea involves removing the current lavatory, and replacing it with a smaller model, to make room for four additional seats on each type. The ERJ-135 could then seat 41 passengers while the E-140 could seat 48. "Doing this we can improve the economics of the aircraft," says Chiessi.

Conversion of E-145s into cargo aircraft does not currently appear economically viable, he adds.

Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence

Source: FlightGlobal.com