The Regional Jet Market: A Victim of its Own Success?

Bombardier is still trying to emulate the kind of success that it experienced with the CRJ200.

Embraer is equally excited about China and has a joint venture with state-owned China Aviation Industry Corporation II (Avic II) to produce 145 aircraft locally.

"The extent of regional aviation in China is small when compared to other parts of the world but the potential is huge," says Chiessi. "A 50-seater airplane would work nicely for this low-density market, which has a lot of city pairs."

Chiessi forecasts that China will order more 50-seat-jets. "The Chinese have a habit of buying 737 aircraft and A320 aircraft for the domestic market. There are a lot of smaller secondary cities that do require 50-seater aircraft. Almost 60% of the city pairs in China havea demand of less than 130 passengers per day."

Despite the size of the Chinese population, Chiessi remains unconvinced about the need for big jets.

"Airlines that operate in a low-density market with 150-seater aircraft would have to fly two or three times per week to break even," he says.

He adds: "This is a poor level of service and the Chinese economy will not be supported by airlines that fly just three times per week.One or two flights per day would be considered an adequate level of service. This is why China needs more smaller planes."

Apart from frequency issues, Chiessi points out that the basic economics that would enable Chinese airlines to prosper are also missing. At certain airports, for example, a 150-seat aircraft pays the samelanding fee as a 50-seat aircraft. "This does not create an incentive for smaller capacity airlines," says Chiessi.

He adds: "The Chinese government acknowledges the need to develop a regional aviation market in order to feed the hubs and connect secondary routes to city pairs. This may take one or two years, but they will create the economic conditions that will make regional aviation viable."

Embraer is equally optimistic about opportunities in Russia. "The market has a fleet of over 240 airplanes with capacities of between 30 and 60 seats," says Chiessi.

He adds: 'There is pressure to replace the old aircraft, which have an average age of 30 years."

Chiessi also recognizes strong potential for sales of the 75- and 76-seat aircraft in the US market.

JetBlue has signed 101 firm orders for the ERJ 190 and 100 optionsfor the same size. TAM from Ecuador, Copa from Panama, Aero Republica from Columbia, Air Canada and US Airways are a few of the other clients.

Air Canada has signed 45 firm orders and 60 options for the Embraer 190. US Airways has signed 57 firm orders and 50 options.

Last December Finnair exercised four of its Embraer 170 options, converting them to Embraer 190 firm orders. These aircraft are in addition to the original firm order of 12 Embraer 170s placed in June 2004. The extra four jets will be delivered in 2007.

Customers for the ERJ 195 include Royal Air Jordanian, Flybe (14 orders), Swiss (15 orders) and Gecas (three orders). In total, the ERJ170, ERJ 175, ERJ 190 and ERJ 195 programmes have accumulated 485 orders and 442 options as of July this year. This includes Republic's order of 30 aircraft.

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