Embraer has raised its forecast for regional jets by 5% to 7,225 deliveries in the 30- to 120-seat sector over the next 20 years.

This will nearly double the global fleet to 8,060 aircraft in 2030. Of the 7,225 new deliveries, more than half - a total of 3,835 - will be for growth while the remainder will replace older jets.

Some 20% of the current fleet will still be operating in 2030. The airframer's outlook reflects a recovery in the industry that is "much faster than expected", said Embraer.

The Brazilian airframer predicts demand for 4,125 commercial jets with 91-120 seats and 2,670 for jets with 61-90 seats.

While acknowledging that the market for 50-seat jets has been "impacted" by high fuel costs and poorer yields, Embraer is upbeat over the prospects for this category.

"The aircraft are still essential to feed hubs in the USA and will progressively help to develop regional aviation in other regions," it said, identifying Latin America, former Soviet states and Africa as candidates.

In the smallest category, 30-60 seats, Embraer foresees a need for only 15 jets for the decade 2011-20 but a surge to 415 in the following 10 years spanning 2021-30.

One-third of all deliveries will go to North America. Europe will take another 23% and China - the fastest-developing market, according to Embraer - will take 13%.

"All eyes are on airlines in Latin America, China, the Middle East and Asia as they discover the potential of regional flying to build their networks, right-size their fleets with smaller-gauge equipment and achieve higher levels of efficiency," said the airframer.

"For the most part, these markets were untouched by the regional jet revolution and have been the domains of large-capacity jets."

Embraer's expectation for 3,100 new jets in the 30- to 90-seat sector contrasts with Boeing's recently issued market forecast that predicted demand for 1,980 regional jets - categorised as aircraft below 90 seats - over the same 20-year period.

While Embraer is not competing in the passenger turboprop market, it has forecast demand for 2,000 aircraft with more than 60 seats and 440 with 30-60 seats.

Source: Flight International