Jump in number of stored aircraft is a feature of a 'maturing' industry - particularly in USA - says RAA president

The number of regional jets in storage has mushroomed to an all-time high of almost 360, 150 of which are newer models, while the number of regional airlines has continued to decline - by 15% over the past five years.

Speaking at the recent Speednews corporate and regional conference, Walsh Aviation president John Walsh said that the largest group in the current stored fleet comprises 100 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100/200s (see graphic). In overall terms, the stored regional jets account for about 11%, or 359, of the world fleet of 3,235 aircraft.

regional hjet fleet

The slowing of overall growth in the regional jet fleet, the increase in the number of stored aircraft and the consolidation of regional carriers are features of a maturing industry, particularly in the USA, according to outgoing Regional Airline Association (RAA) president Debby McElroy: "For the first time in a long time, last year we saw the regional jet fleet go down to around 1,600. Emplanements continue to grow, but at a much slower rate, and the phenomenal growth rate we've seen is slowing as it matures."

McElroy said the "realignment" of fleets in the USA was linked to the move up from 50- to 70-seaters in some cases, and the growth of larger turboprop fleets in others.

She predicted that despite the slowdown, the US regional fleet would continue to grow steadily, from 2,676 regional jets and turboprops to more than 3,850 by 2017. Of these, over 70% are expected to be jets with more than 40 seats.

Further shrinkage is also expected within the airlines themselves, said McElroy. "We've seen a fairly dramatic decrease in the number of regional airlines. There were 80 at the end of 2005 compared with 228 in 1978. We fully expect it will continue to decline, and we will see continued evolution of 'holding companies' such as the Mesa Air Group and Republic type operations."

Walsh told the conference that for the forthcoming regional jet delivery forecast period, "Embraer is in control of the market", pointing out that the Brazilian manufacturer's backlog through the end of the 2006 third quarter was 414 ERJ and E-Jet series aircraft compared with 81 Bombardier CRJs. Walsh added that the turboprop revival was significant. According to Speednews, by 30 September, ATR's undelivered backlog was 131 ATR 42/72s, while Bombardier had undelivered orders for almost 86 Q Series turboprops.

Bombardier's sales vice-president Trung Ngo said Europe continued to lead the growth of turboprop markets, and developments such as the buy-out of BA Connect by FlyBe were "watershed" events.

Source: Flight International