The Small Airliner Problem, Part 5

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By Bjorn Fehrm

May 18, 2023, © Leeham News: In our series about the viability of the business plans for small airliners (nine to 50 seats), we have covered how energy/fuel consumption, maintenance, and airway/airport fees scales with the size of the airliner.

The cost factor we now examine is the crew cost, where especially the flight crew cost development is troublesome, as pilots changed jobs during the COVID lull or retired early. When air traffic now rebounds, the lack of pilots drives wages and thus costs to new record levels.

Figure 1. The Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 electric airliner. Source: Heart Aerospace.

  • The availability of flight crews is a major problem in the US market. It will spread to other geographies as air traffic picks up after COVID-19.
  • The scaling of crew costs per transported passenger is unfavorable for smaller aircraft.

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