Competition heats up for the Avro RJ

Since the demise of the Fokker 70/100 family, Avro has had the 70-100 seat regional jet market pretty much to itself. This situation is about to change, however. At the upper end, Boeing will roll out its new 100-seat 717-200 (previously known as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95) on 10 June, and is considering a family of such aircraft, including a smaller, 85-seat 717-100X version. Although problems with the 717’s BMW/Rolls-Royce BR715 engines have delayed flight testing, initial deliveries are due in mid-1999. Boeing has firm orders for 55 717s, from AirTran (50) and lessor Bavaria (5). The 717-200 competes with the RJ100, and any smaller version would compete with the RJ85. Although the 717’s price will apparently not be as low as Boeing had hoped, the 717 will still be a formidable competitor, given Boeing’s marketing muscle. At the lower end, Canadair will begin deliveries of its 70-seat CRJ-700 in late 2000. To date, the CRJ-700 has attracted 67 firm orders, options, and memoranda of understanding from 7 airlines. BAe has had relatively little success in this size range, with only 12 sales of the 70-seat RJ70, which is now available only by special order. Fairchild Dornier has now also jumped into the fray with its new 528/728/928JET family. The first member of this family, the 70-75 seat 728JET, was officially launched at the ILA 98 show in Berlin on 19 May. It has already attracted orders for 30 aircraft from German airline Eurowings (a current BAe 146 operator) and for 15 from French airline Protéus. Current Avro RJ operators CityLine and Crossair have also announced their interest in the program and are considering an initial order for up to 120 aircraft. Initial deliveries of the 728JET are expected in late 2001. Development of the 55-seat 528JET and 90-95 seat 928JET will eventually create a family that competes directly with the entire Avro RJ line. Other potential competitors include Airbus’ proposed A319M5 and AE316/317 family at the top end of the range and Embraer’s EMB-170 at the bottom end. ATR may also seek to revive the planned AIRJET.

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