Mesa Air Group wants early delivery of a new 50-seat regional jet. It has an additional requirement for a smaller complementary aircraft, giving the Embraer RJ-145 the edge over the competing Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200.

Phoenix, Arizona-based Mesa plans soon to announce the acquisition of up 40 new jets to expand its America West and US Airways Express regional partner services (Flight International, 19-25 May). "We want to take delivery of the first aircraft by early next year," says Mesa chief executive Jonathan Ornstein.

Embraer is believed to have slots available that had been set aside for an expected Northwest Airlines order for 54 aircraft that was won instead by Bombardier. The Canadian company is reportedly unable to meet earlier deliveries.

Another factor in Mesa's decision-making is future aircraft family commonality, with the carrier wanting to limit its types. Embraer is offering the smaller ERJ-135 and Bombardier the stretched 70-seat CRJ-700. "We're looking to go down in size and a 35-seater is more important-ultimately this will be the next big move," says Ornstein.

The new aircraft will provide incremental capacity for Mesa's US Airways Express operation in the Mid-West and on the East Coast, as well as its smaller America West Express service, based at Phoenix. "They're committed to taking the aircraft," claims Ornstein. He adds that they will be used on yet to be announced new routes.

Bombardier has delivered 26 of the 32 CRJ-200s previously ordered by the carrier. Mesa also operates 12 Dash 8-200s and 75 Raytheon Beech 1900Ds. The latter fleet, Ornstein says, is being reduced in number.

Meanwhile, Mesa says that its recently acquired CCAir subsidiary will continue as a separate entity, with its own operator certificate, aircraft, dispatch and training functions. The take-over has produced some savings, such as on insurance, and "we've started to look at integrating the back offices", says Ornstein.

There is little route or fleet overlap between Mesa and Charlotte-based CCAir, which operates Dash 8-100s and British Aerospace Jetstream 31/32 turboprops. "Trying to put them together will only complicate things," says Ornstein, who projects a $5 million pre-tax end of year profit for CCAir on top of $20 million forecast for Mesa.

Source: Flight International