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JetBlue starts examining heavy maintenance options for E-190s

Embraer E-190 launch customer JetBlue Airways is starting to examine its heavy maintenance strategy for the aircraft as the average age of that fleet type approaches the two-year mark.

JetBlue took delivery of its first E-Jets 2005, placing the aircraft on east coast routes. Sine then it has widened its placement of the E-190 as the carrier operates the aircraft from Orlando to Costa Rica and on some west coast flights.

The carrier plans to take delivery of six E-190s this year to operate a total of 41 of the type at year-end.

With some of the older E-190s getting close to heavy checks, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger says he's concerned about a lack of heavy maintenance providers for the E-190s.

Two independent North American maintenance, repair and overhaul companies have recently detailed plans to offer E-Jet heavy maintenance. Canadian MRO ExelTech in late 2008 reached a deal with US regional operator Republic Airways Holdings for heavy maintenance checks for 15 E-170s.

Empire Aero based in Rome, New York in October 2008 won board approval to acquire the tooling for E-190 heavy maintenance. Empire performs heavy checks on some of JetBlue's Airbus A320 aircraft. E-Jet manufacturer Embraer also offers heavy maintenance from its Nashville, Tennessee facility.

JetBlue's chief executive says he's interested in seeing how the E-190 matures. He explains that unlike the A320 family, roughly 20 years of data does not exist for the E-190.

The carrier did have teething issues with the E-190 entry-into-service, mostly software glitches that falsely indicated errors.

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