Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

JSX, THE UNIT which manages the British Aerospace fleet of leased Jetstream turboprops, has warned competitors that it plans an aggressive price drive to get idle 19-seat J31s back in the air.

JSX is preparing to take on manufacturers of new 19-seaters through "aggressive deals and reduced pricing", says JSX vice-president Steve O'Sullivan. "We're putting our competitors on notice," he adds, in a warning largely directed at Beech Aircraft.

The drive is just part of a renewed effort by BAe to get control of its turboprop-lease portfolio. JSX now has a fleet of 432 aircraft on its books, making it the world's largest turboprop lessor. The bulk of the fleet is made up of 289 J31/32s, mainly on lease in North America, with another 54 J41s and 49 ATPs.

At the start of the year, 20% of the entire fleet was idle, although O'Sullivan says that the figure includes "white-tail" J32s, which were never sold and aircraft being configured for corporate operations. As part of the drive, JSX plans to carry out a telesales campaign aimed at 1,500 corporate aircraft operators, offering them deals on the J31.

The moves follow the setting up of BAe Asset Management, a new division which will oversee both JSX and the Assett Management Organisation (AMO), set up three years ago to handle the 110-strong leased fleet of BAe 146 regional jets. AMO has now got all of the aircraft in service and is working on improving the quality of leases.

BAe hopes to reproduce the AMO success at JSX, says the new division's chief executive Tony Rice. Among the lessons learned is the need to stem the flood of lease returns. JSX has already begun talking to major J31 customers, such as, AMR Eagle (which is leaving the 19-seater market) about how they can place the aircraft with alternative small feeder airlines.

The eventual aim is to start moving aircraft off the BAe books. Rice says that BAe holds credit commitments of over £3 billion ($4.5 billion) on lease financing, with some of the head leases running for up to 18 years.

AMO has already sold a 146 to Manx Airlines and is in talks to sell two cargo versions to TNT. It has also sold two of the ten Swissair Fokker 100s taken by Avro as part of the deal to sell new RJs.

Source: Flight International