Jens Flottau/DORTMUND

Eurowings is in negotiations with British Aerospace to become launch customer for its updated Avro RJ-X model, with which it would replace its ageing BAe 146s.

The airline is discussing an order for up to six examples. The RJ-X is BAe's planned, re-engined, AlliedSignal AS977-powered development of the Avro RJ, set for delivery from mid-2001. The initial focus will be on the 805/100-seat Avro RJ85X, followed by the 100-110 seat RJ100X. BAe says it expects to sign up a launch customer by mid-December, and says "metal will be cut" on the first development aircraft next January.

Eurowings is one of Europe's largest BAe 146 operators, with 10 aircraft on lease, including six -200s and four -300s. The airline wants to replace its 146s as it prepares longer-term plans which include the acquisition of a new 55/90-seat regional jet, an overhaul of its ATR fleet and, possibly, an Airbus A318 order.

Eurowings new chief executive Friedrich-Wilhelm Weitholz says he will only consider the new Avro if BAe can demonstrate a significant improvement in reliability over the AlliedSignal ALF502-R5-powered 146. He admits that the airline's schedule is regularly disrupted by technical problems with the 146. Technical questions still remain to be clarified with BAe and "we haven't talked about the price yet", says Weitholz.

The 146s are used on scheduled and charter flights. Weitholz says the airline is looking at deploying the RJ-X on the latter services, where demand for a 100-seater is increasing steadily.

An order for up to 25 55/90-seaters is planned - either the Fairchild 728JET or the Embraer RJ-170/190 family (Flight International, 7-13 July). If the order for the RJ-X proceeds, the 100-seaters would be operated for 10 years, supplementing the smaller jets, when they arrive.

Eurowings plans an initial public offering in 2002/3 to help finance its $1 billion fleet renewal programme. The A318 is also being evaluated to supplement four A319s operated on charter flights. Although its fleet of 28 ATR 42/72s will be reduced in size, Eurowings intends to retain 10-12 of the twin turboprops. New versions could be ordered to update the fleet.

Source: Flight International