CRJ-200 an unexpected success in P2F market

March 8, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Bombardier CRJ-200s, rapidly being phased out of passenger service and consigned to the scrap yard, proved to be an unexpected success for freighter conversion company (Aeronautical Engineering Inc (AEI).

Converting the CRJ-200 from passenger to freighter as intended to be a bridge between the Boeing 737-400 and 737-800 P2F programs, Robert Convey, SVP Sales and Marketing, told LNC at the annual meeting of ISTAT in San Diego.

Rather than being a program for a handful of conversions, within three years, Convey landed 54 orders and counting.

Unexpected success

“We started off three years ago in an area we were not familiar with” Convey said of regional aircraft and freighters. “We saw a gap between [AEI converting] the 737-400 and the 737-800. We needed a bridge.”

Convey said AEI approached Bombardier with the idea of converting CRJ200s to freighters. There were about 1,000 airplanes to serve as feedstock. Values were scrap, mainly in the engines. Payload is 15,000 lbs, range is 1,000 miles and there is a growing fleet of FanJet Falcons, Douglas DC-6s, Convair 580s and British Aerospace ATPs that are aging.

The $1.85m conversion puts a CRJ-200 “on the ramp” for $4.5m-$5m.

These factors combined to provide the basis for orders than AEI expected.

Learning the market

Convey didn’t know the market.

“I didn’t know any of these guys,” he said. “They don’t go to ISTAT,” or any of the other events AEI typically attends. But as he investigated, the factors outlined above and coming to an understanding of the market built the business case.

“We booked 45 orders during the development cycle and we’re booking more every day,” Convey said.

Customers include the IFL Group in Michigan, a Falcon-CV580-727 operator for FedEx; TSM in Mexico, which flies for DHL; Airest in Estonia, a Saab 340F operator; and AvMax in Canada, which has a large fleet of CRJs and Dash 8s, providing dry lease and ACMI services.

“There’s global penetration and there’s a lot of interest in the US,” he said.

Comparing programs

“We were hoping for 30-50 conversions when we launched and now we’re going to be well north of 100,” he said.

AEI converted 240 727-100s/200s over the life of this program and expects to convert 150 737-400s by the time this program is over. There is already a backlog of 101 orders and commitments for the 737-800. GECAS is the first customer, for 10.

The conversion program for the Boeing MD-80 has been a disappointment. There have only been 10 with three more orders. By the time the STC was received, the 737-400 became available at attractive prices. The fuselage is common with the 727, meaning containers are common. The narrower MD-80 fuselage requires a different container.

Convey sees two or three MD-80 P2Fs per year for a few years.

Future programs

The 737-800 P2F is the next program, with certification expected this year. Convey sees the 737-900 (Standard) as the next opportunity. Some of these are beginning to trade, but prices are still a bit on the high side.

8 Comments on “CRJ-200 an unexpected success in P2F market

  1. Contact SUSI AIR. She has about fifty Turbo Porters, Caravans, you-name-it. A P2F CRJ 200 STOL would be the cat’s mellow around Papua for Miss Suzi.

  2. The CRJ is a derivative of the Challenger, which was designed to be used as a freighter because FedEx was one of the first customers and had initially placed a large order for the Challenger at the start of the programme. The Falcon and the Challenger are both sturdy aircraft. That is why the Falcon has been used by FedEx as a freighter and by the US Coast Guards for low altitude maritime patrol. And for the same reason Boeing is also using the Challenger as its platform for maritime patrol. It’s an airplane they know well because if I am not mistaken Boeing had a small fleet of Challengers that they used for corporate travel. Therefore it is not surprising that today the CRJ would be so popular as a freighter.

    • Feedstock indeed. But I counted less than 60 CRJ200 in that picture, out of the 935 that had been built when Bombardier stopped producing them. Plus another 850+ of the CRJ700 family, for a grand total that is likely to exceed 2000 units in the future. So the potential is huge. Many gaz-guzzlers like the CRJ seem to find a second life as a freighter. But the question is how many small freighters like this one will the market need in the future?

  3. Another executive jet , but far less well known, that was surprisingly suitable for small package freight was the HFB320 Hansajet.
    The forward swept wings meant the wing box passed through the aft fuselage and gave a fairly flat floor area. It was just a bit too early to have the first small turbo fan engines like its far more successful rival the Falcon 20.

    • I am not sure what you mean by “fairly flat floor area”. The way I understand it, the fact that the wing box is located behind the cabin saves some space forward and makes the cabin more voluminous than it would normally be. This would indeed be ideal for small cargo because it is possible to pack a greater quantity of parcels inside the cabin than with other aircraft in the same category.

  4. Ah, new life for “the devil’s chariot”! May she long do better hauling freight comfortably than people! LOL

    • Im sure a lot of small towns that lost their airservice would agree with you about being ‘better hauling freight’

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