Karen Walker

In a bittersweet moment, Saab Aircraft has won new orders for 28 aircraft in the same week that it has almost certainly made its last major appearance at an international air show.

In two separate deals, probably worth a total of around $300 million, the Swedish company has sold 22 Saab 340s to Mesaba Airlines, the Minneapolis, US-based Northwest Airlink operator, and six Saab 2000s to Swiss carrier Crossair.

Industry observers believe the new sales could extend the life of Saab's production line by another year, but they will not be enough to change the long-term fortunes of the company.

Saab is expected to make a decision early next year to end production of both aircraft types.

All that these deals will do is extend production until around the second quarter of 1999.

Saab is not confirming the orders or making any comment.

However, Flight Daily News understands that the Mesaba contract is for 19 new 340B+s and three used 340As, bringing the airline's total 340 fleet to 72.

Crossair's new 2000s, meanwhile, will join an existing fleet of 25.

That deal is expected to be signed formally within days.

Before winning these orders, Saab's backlog had dwindled to a mere 11 340s and eight 2000s.

Sources say the company has explored all potential rescue plans, including transferring 2000 production to China under a joint-venture programme or collaborating with Brazilian competitor Embraer, but without success.

It may be small consolation, but at least the new orders will allow Saab to walk away from the Dubai show with its head high.

Source: Flight Daily News