BAE Systems Regional Aircraft marked 27 years of continuous operations of BAe 146s and Avro RJs by Swiss by presenting the airline with an engraved glass plaque during the recent BAE Systems Flight Operations Support Conference, which was held at Prestwick. Swiss’ predecessor Crossair took delivery of the first of three former PSA/USAir BAe 146-200s in April 1990. A series 300 joined them in September 1991. In 1993, the 146s were replaced by four new-build Avro RJ85s. RJ100s started arriving in late 1995. Unfortunately, the airline’s RJ operations were marred by the crash of Crossair RJ100 HB-IXM (msn E3291) near Zürich on 24 November 2001. In 2002, Crossair became the nucleus of Swiss, together with the rump of bankrupt Swissair, at which time the airline’s fleet included four RJ85s and fifteen RJ100s. The RJ100 fleet eventually grew to number twenty examples, while the RJ85s were sold. In 2009, Swiss chose the Bombardier CSeries to replace its RJ100s, but delays in deliveries of the new aircraft extended the RJ100’s tenure. In recent years, the RJ100 fleet has been gradually drawn down, with only six remaining at the beginning of 2017. The last RJ100 will be withdrawn in August, so the airline will never reach its 28th anniversary of 146/RJ operations. Despite the longevity of 146/RJ operations at Swiss, the airline is not, in fact, the type’s oldest operator, but merely the fourth oldest. The third oldest operator is Brussels Airlines, whose predecessor Delta Air Transport (DAT) received its BAe 146-200 in November 1989, almost six months before Crossair’s first delivery. DAT and its successors, SN Brussels and Brussels Airlines, went on to operate a large fleet of 146-200s, RJ85s, and RJ100s. Brussels Airlines is also planning to end RJ100 operations sometime this year. Second oldest is ASL Airlines Spain, whose predecessor Pan Air Líneas Aéreas began operating a 146-200QT freighter on behalf of TNT in October 1988. Pan Air operated a shifting roster of 146-200QTs and 300QTs over the years; ASL Airlines Spain currently operates eight 300QTs. The honor of being the oldest 146/RJ operator goes to Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA), whose predecessor Malmö Aviation began operating a 146-200QT freighter on behalf of TNT in February 1988. It later added passenger 146s, and then replaced them with former SAM Colombia RJ100s beginning in 2001. Additional RJ100s were acquired later from various sources, along with some RJ70s and RJ85s. BRA’s current fleet includes ten RJ100s and two RJ85s. Neither ASL Airlines Spain nor BRA have any immediate plans to replace their 146s and RJs. BRA has ten Bombardier CS100s on order, but recently postponed deliveries. Both airlines are thus strong candidates for the eventual record of having operated 146s/RJs the longest, with BRA currently in the lead by some eight months.
Recent news items on Swiss:
- Swiss ends Avro RJ100 operations (2017-08-15)
- Swiss is down to a single Avro RJ100 (2017-07-05)
- Third Avro RJ100 delivered to Aerovías DAP (2017-04-29)
- Avro RJ100s to be banned from London City in March (2017-02-01)
- Avro RJ retirements looming in Europe (2017-01-13)