The Small Airliner problem, Part 2

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By Bjorn Fehrm

April 27, 2023, © Leeham News: We started a series about the viability of the business plans for small airliners (nine to 50 seats) last week in the light of a continuing decline of regional airlines in the US and Europe.

To understand whether fundamentals are stacked against small airliners, we look at operational cost factors and how these scale with aircraft size. Then we add the revenue and yield and discuss the conditions for viable business plans for different size aircraft.

This week we use the Leeham airliner performance and cost model to compare the airframe energy and fuel consumptions for airliners spanning nine to 200 seats.

Figure 1. Eviation Alice is a battery-based nine-seat electric aircraft. Source: Eviation.

  • On an airframe energy level, a smaller airliner consumes more energy per transported passenger than a larger one.
  • If we change the metric to propulsion energy consumption, the trend is augmented as small propulsion solutions are less efficient than larger ones.

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