US regional carrier CommuteAir is sticking with Embraer ERJ-145 as its mainstay regional jet after acquiring last month a single E170 for planned charter operations. 

Rick Hoefling, chief executive of CommuteAir, told FlightGlobal in late October that the E170 should be available for chartering in the second quarter of 2024, and could eventually lead to the company adding more larger regional aircraft. The airline operates regional aircraft for Chicago-based United Airlines.

“This aircraft allows us to move our [Department of Transportation] authority from a commuter certificate to that of a certificate of public convenience and necessity, paving the way for potential large-gauge aircraft operations in the future,” Hoefling says. ”While we have no immediate plans to move beyond the single [E170] aircraft, it is part of our overall long-term strategy to modernise the business and diversify our capabilities for United.”

Airlines holding Department of Transportation-issued commuter air carrier authorisations, like CommuteAir, can operate aircraft with up to 60 seats, while companies wishing to operate aircraft with more seats require a certificate of public convenience and authority.

CommuteAir acquired the E170 this year from an affiliate of aircraft leasing company Nordic Aviation Capital. Canadian carrier Air North had previously operated the jet, which Embraer manufactured in 2009, according to Cirium data.

CommuteAir is considering up-sizing after many US regional airlines have already divested many or all of their 50-70 regional jets in favour of larger regional aircraft like Embraer E-Jets and Bombardier CRJ700s and CRJ900s. The shift toward larger aircraft accellerated in recent years amid a shortage of pilots.

With headquarters in Cleveland, CommuteAir is the sole operator of 50-seat ERJ-145s within the United Express network. The carrier has 53 of the type flying, according to Cirium fleets data. 

“We continue to be United’s sole provider for the [ERJ-145] for the foreseeable future,” Hoefling says. “The aircraft has proven to be a very reliable workhorse serving small communities.” 

CommuteAir has recently been upgrading avionics and refurbishing the interiors and exteriors of its ERJ-145 jets.

”Recent investments by United in modernising the aircraft interiors as well as upgrading systems such as the aircraft’s [flight management system] are key indicators of its current importance in supported the United Next strategy,” he adds. 

Amid an ongoing shortage of qualified pilots, CommuteAir currently has about 45 aircraft in storage, Cirium shows.