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Continental Express is eager for small regional jet

Continental Express has converted the first 25 of 175 options it holds on Embraer EMB-145s. It has also expressed a serious interest in the smaller regional jets now being planned, as it ponders the move to an all-regional-jet fleet.

The airline has ordered the longer-range LR version. The new batch of deliveries will run between May 1998 and late 1999.

Continental Express president Dave Siegel says that the emerging smaller regional-jet models are being closely examined, as is the possibility of the airline having an all-jet-powered fleet. "We are talking to Fairchild Dornier about its new 328Jet, and I am encouraging Embraer to develop a serious alternative with its [37-seat] EMB-135", he says, but adds that he is yet to be convinced about the 30-seat regional-jet market.

Embraer expects to decide on the short-fuselage EMB-145 derivative in August, while Siegel says that he "-.would like to have reached an [order] decision by the end of the summer".

Embraer's development timetable for the EMB-135 targets certification and service-entry by the end of 1999, which is "okay", says Siegel.

Although Allison, whose AE3007 powers the EMB-145, is a risk-sharing partner on that project, Mauricio Botelho, Embraer's president and chief executive, says that the selection of the engine on the new model will depend on deals available.

A go-ahead on the EMB-135 could delay the launch of Embraer's proposed EMB-170. This would use the EMB-145 nose and cockpit married to a large-diameter fuselage and bigger wing.