Are the world’s regional airlines dying?

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By Scott Hamilton

June 17, 2023, © Leeham News: Is the regional airline market across the globe dying?

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines. Credit: CNBC.

Many think so. Certainly, the market demand for the regional jet is shrinking in the 10- and 20-year market forecasts. Bombardier withdrew from the market as demand for its aging CRJ family shriveled. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries killed its RJ SpaceJet program as delays and development costs mounted. Bombardier also exited its turboprop airliner business. ATR is now the sole producer of large turboprops outside China and Russia.

Embraer is now the sole producer of regional jets outside of China and Russia, and it doesn’t even want to call the E-Jet a regional airliner.

Regional airlines in the US face a continuing and growing shortage of pilots. Those in Europe face pressure from environmentalists to the governments to ban short-haul flights in favor of trains.

Despite these challenges and the conclusions of some that the regional airline business is dying, regional carriers take exception to these conclusions.

One regional airline official even took exception to the CEO of Delta Air Lines, who concurred with the dead-and-dying trend.

Speaking at the Aviation Week MRO Americas conference in April in Atlanta, Ed Bastian noted that Delta began trending away from regional carriers many years before.

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The Airbus A220-500, a deep-dive analysis: The launch date challenge

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By Bjorn Fehrm and Vincent Valery

Jan. 30, 2023, © Leeham News: In the previous articles, demand in the Airbus A320 family gradually shifted from the smaller A319 and A320 to the larger A321. This shift is laying the groundwork for the arrival of the A220-500.

Airbus can develop the A220-500 with relatively minor technical modifications that are not extremely challenging. In an aircraft performance analysis, we saw that the light aircraft weight gave the A220-500 an advantage against the A320neo and 737-8.

What is then preventing Airbus from launching the A220-500 now? While most of the attention has been on the cannibalization risk with the A320neo and the lack of urgency given Airbus’ market share lead, other and more critical factors, in LNA’s opinion, are at play.

Being an aircraft OEM is not just about designing airplanes that meet payload-range requirements and satisfy stringent safety regulations. It is also about efficiently building aircraft with millions of parts and consistent production rates. The recent challenges OEMs are facing ramping up after the Covid-19 pandemic show that aircraft production is far from a walk in the park that can be taken for granted.

It is common for aircraft OEMs to spend as much cash nursing production through the learning curve until the first profitable delivery as developing the aircraft itself.

The final article on this A220-500 series discusses why Airbus is rightfully cautious about launching the new variant.

Figure 1. A rendering of an A220-500 that takes 157 passengers. Source; Leeham Co.

  • Current planned A220 production rates and variants can satisfy demand;
  • Adding the A220-500 brings the program to a new demand level;
  • Several clients would place large A220-500 orders;

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Boeing faces exodus of senior engineers in tight market for talent

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By Bryan Corliss
Nov. 28, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing’s engineering corps could become further depleted within the next few days, as union-represented engineers and technical workers at the company’s Puget Sound plants face a Wednesday deadline on filing their retirement paperwork.

If they don’t leave now, individuals could face retirement benefit losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The potential loss of several hundred of Boeing’s most experienced engineers comes at a time when the company is scraping together engineering teams to tackle production problems in Charleston, and in the midst of an industry-wide shortage of engineering talent.


  • Aggressive hiring sparks Brazilian lawsuit
  • Engineers face Wednesday deadline
  • All aerospace companies need engineers
  • Tech industry layoffs won’t help
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Airbus’ TwoTwenty, its first real business jet

By Bjorn Fehrm

September 28, 2021, ©. Leeham News: When Airbus got the A220 airliner series from Bombardier, it also got the base for a competitive business jet.

Airbus, like Boeing, has produced Corporate Jets under its ACJ (Airbus Corporate Jets) since 1997 by converting its passenger A319, A320, A330, and A350 to one-off jets for Corporations, States, or wealthy individuals.

With the business jet based on A220-100, this changes. It’s no longer a one-off production but a fully-fledged Bizjet like the Gulfstream 650/700 or Bombardier Global 6500/7500, produced in series and with a semi-custom modular interior.

Figure 1. The Airbus TwoTwenty, the first real Airbus Bizjet. Source: Airbus.

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Pontifications: IAI moves to cement lead in 777 P2F conversions

  • IAI, Etihad ink Boeing 777-300ER P2F deal.
  • De Havilland union sniffs kerosene.

Aug. 30, 2021, ©Leeham News: The agreement last week between IAI and Etihad Airways to open a Boeing 777-300ER P2F conversion line in Abu Dhabi gives a major boost to the burgeoning program.

By Scott Hamilton

In addition to the history-making tie-up between an Israeli company and the United Arad Emirates, and a commitment by Etihad to convert 777s to freighters with IAI, the move is a major coup for IAI to win other Arab airline business.

IAI and the former GECAS, which was acquired by AerCap, launched the first 777 P2F program in 2019. GECAS ordered 15 conversions of the -300ER and optioned 15 more.

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Exclusive: Mitsubishi ponders restarting CRJ production

By Scott Hamilton

July 6, 2021, © Leeham News: Mitsubishi is considering restarting production of the discontinued CRJ, LNA confirmed with multiple sources.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries discontinued production with the completion of the last of the small backlog it acquired with the June 1, 2019, purchase of the program from the ailing Bombardier. The final 15 CRJ900s were completed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Montreal Mirabel Airport production line was shut down. The tooling was removed and stored. The buildings were turned over to Airbus, which now uses them for A220 production.


Source: Bombardier.

“Our primary focus remains the support of the CRJ operating fleet,” said Ross Mitchell, vice president of Shared Services.  “Clearly, the regional jet market is important to us, but we have made no commitment to move forward in this respect.”

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Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 7. Transport Category Aircraft

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca

June 11, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we scaled a nine-seat aircraft to a 19-seat aircraft and examined some of the pros and cons of such a change.  The aircraft are certified to the 14 CFR Part 23 rules in the US, labeled “Normal Category Aircraft“.

This week we scale the aircraft up one step further to understand product certification and operation rules for the larger Transport Category Aircraft (14 CFR Part 25) class.

The Bombardier Global 7500 is a Transport Category Aircraft (Part 25) as its gross weight is over 19,000lb. Source: Bombardier.

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Mitsubishi’s MHIRJ expanding MRO floor space by 100,000 sf

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By Scott Hamilton

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 appeared here.


June 1, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s been one year today since Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) closed the acquisition of Bombardier’s CRJ program and global aftermarket support system.

In that year, MHI “suspended” development of the M90/M100 SpaceJet regional airliner, reduced funding by 99% and all but shuttered its business. The entire airline and aerospace supply chain industry believes MHI won’t restart the program.

But the Bombardier aftermarket business, renamed MHIRJ Aviation Group, appears to be thriving. MHIRJ expanded, opening a consulting business.

MHI also invested $20m in the expansion of its West Virginia and Arizona CRJ MRO lines. The company celebrates the expansions next month.

A small amount to be sure, but it nevertheless reversed the lack of monies by the nearly bankrupt Bombardier.

“We have the biggest regional MRO network in the world out of Bridgeport, West Virginia, and Tucson, Arizona,” said Ismail Mokabel, Senior Vice President, Head of Aftermarket. At both sites, MHIRJ can run about 30 simultaneous aircraft or equal lines of maintenance at any given time, he said.

MHIRJ is adding another 100,000 square feet of space, expanding two new hangars that will be up and running within the next 12 to 18 months. The contract was signed May 27.

  • Regional airline aftermarket MRO business fell 35%-40% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • MHIRJ profit-and-loss already is at pre-COVID level.
  • The company will develop performance improvement packages for CRJ.
  • May expand MRO services to other aircraft types after 2023.

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Mitsubishi grows ex-Bombardier business even as SpaceJet rests in limbo

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By Scott Hamilton

Part 1 of 2 Parts


May 31, 2021, © Leeham News: June 1 is the first anniversary of the acquired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of the Bombardier CRJ program and global support network.

It was on the surface a bittersweet moment.

MHI and Bombardier announced the deal June 25, 2019.

MHI’s aircraft subsidiary, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (MITAC) was then going full steam ahead with the development of the M100 SpaceJet and certification of the M90 SpaceJet, previously known as the MRJ90.

But in March 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic exploded. By June, MHI put the SpaceJet program in “suspense.” All operations outside Japan were closed and hundreds of employees were laid off. Flight testing in Washington State was terminated. MITAC’s headquarters at Nagoya Airport was shuttered and funding was reduced by 99%. The future of the SpaceJet program is in doubt. MHI says only it will “reassess” during its current fiscal year ending next March 31.

But MHI continued with the CRJ acquisition. After the close, it was renamed MHIRJ.

During the ensuing year, MHIRJ continues to support the global CRJ fleet. It also launched a new advisory/consulting business that encompasses mainline jets, airlines and airports.

  • CRJ customers saw business as usual following the close.
  • Pivoting from SpaceJet to advisory-consulting work.
  • With SpaceJet in limbo, MHI grows acquisition business.

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Pontifications: Embraer’s China ambitions

March 22, 2021, © Leeham News: Embraer wants to become a big player in China.

By Scott Hamilton

“We see a huge market potential there,” said Arjan Meijer, CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation, in an interview with Nikkei Asia. The news outlet continued, “The company expects worldwide demand for 5,500 jets with up to 150 seats over the next 10 years. A third of that will come from Asia, with a large part of it from China, Meijer added.”

However, China presents risks and few rewards to companies wishing to gain a significant foothold. This is especially true for commercial aviation companies. China has high ambitions for the commercial aviation industry. Partnering with China in this sector produced more heartbreak than success.

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