Manx Airlines has finalised its long-awaited regional-jet order with a contract for up to five Embraer EMB-145s, the first of which will be delivered in June for operation on the airline's British Airways Express franchise services.

The airline selected the Brazilian regional jet after a three-way fight involving the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) and Saab 2000. The three firmly ordered aircraft will be delivered between June and August, while the two options are scheduled for 1998. The airline will be the first UK carrier to introduce a 50-seat regional jet.

According to Manx managing director Terry Liddiard, the carrier undertook a lengthy evaluation of the three aircraft before choosing the Embraer. "Our comparisons with the CRJ revealed that the Embraer has considerably lower DOCs [direct operating costs], to the tune of 10%," he says. "The 2000 was rejected simply because it has 'propellers', and we are seeking to improve passenger appeal with the new fleet," he adds.

The Embraers will be flown under the British Regional Airlines (BRAL) banner, which encompasses the BA Express services of Airlines of Britain (ALB) subsidiaries Manx and Loganair. The operations of ALB sister company Business Air will be integrated into the group over the next 12 months.

The aircraft will be operated on the longer sectors of the BRAL network, from Southampton to Glasgow and Edinburgh - replacing 29-seat AI(R) Jetstream 41s- and on new services from Manchester to Berlin and Hanover in Germany. The Hanover route is being transferred from BA, which had already dropped the Berlin service because of restrictive noise legislation at the German airport. Liddiard says that the revamp of the BRAL fleet and the introduction of the regional jets could provide further opportunities for other BA routes to be transferred.

Manx's present all-British Aerospace fleet includes ATPs, BAe 146s and Jetstream 31/41s. It will total 50 aircraft when the Embraers are delivered. With the strong BAe connection, Liddiard has expressed interest in Aero International (Regional) (AI(R))'s AIR JET regional-jet plans in the longer term. He says that it will be at least one year before the airline makes any decision on further commitment to the EMB-145.

Source: Flight International