Alan Dron

Several airline board meetings over the coming month may yield order announcements for the Avro RJX regional airliner, and BAE Systems reports greater-than-anticipated interest in remaining production examples of its current RJ model.

First metal was cut on the initial RJX-85 and RJX-100 in January. Nose structures are on the line at Woodford, England and work on the wings is due to start next month.

BAE Systems does not anticipate major announcements on the regional aircraft front at Asian Aerospace, although there may be two small orders for its Avro line. Nick Godwin, vice-president marketing of BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, says it is likely to be the second or third week in March before further announcements "...which are being driven by timings of board meetings."

Initial delivery specifications for the RJX "...are pretty much frozen and we'll be issuing a formal type spec very shortly," says Godwin. Pre-flight performance calculations completed in recent weeks have revealed a marginally better-than-predicted performance, with the RJX around 1% better in fuel burn than anticipated.

"This new data gives us everything we wanted for the RJX. It proves we have been right in saying the Avro RJX is the low-risk solution for regional airlines."

BAE Systems is convinced that some of the contenders in the overcrowded regional jet market will fail to reach fruition and that relatively low-cost derivative aircraft such as the RJX will have an edge over new designs such as the Fairchild's 728/928 range and Embraer's ERJ170 and 190.


In addition, the RJX is due into service in July 2001. "That puts us ahead of most people by two to three years," says Godwin.

The company sees Europe and Australasia as the best potential markets for the RJX and is stressing its improved range and payload characteristics from performance-critical airports.

At summer temperatures and with a 100-passenger payload at 97kg each, range from Florence, Italy is predicted to rise from 445km (241nm ) to 1,425km compared with the RJ100, from 815 to 1,405km from London City and from 2,485 to 2,885km out of Ayers Rock, Australia.

Meanwhile, says Godwin, there is "still quite a bit of interest" in the RJ. "We're building a few more than anticipated because of the strength of interest. We've got about 18 aircraft to move."

These will be mainly -100s and are likely to go to established RJ operators, who want an aircraft to the same specification as their existing fleet. However, a potential fleet order for RJ85s "...could develop around April".

Source: Flight Daily News