June 24, 2013
Credit: George Hamlin
Finding a real-world depiction of what Bombardier CRJ100/200 maintenance spending is expected to look like in the next decade is a snap. Head to the local playground and look for a slide.
Aviation Week's Commercial Fleet and MRO Forecast shows MRO spending on the best-selling regional jets ever built (Bombardier delivered 935 CRJ100s/200s) will be flat for two years on each end of the 2013-22 time frame, with six years of steady decline connecting the top and bottom plateaus.
Total global spending for the 10 years ending in 2022 is expected to be just more than $7.3 billion. About 36% of the output—$2.7 billion—is evenly divided between this year and next. The downward slope begins in 2015, when the forecast projects $1.2 billion in spending, followed by $982 million in 2016. By 2020, annual spending is slated to be down to $305 million, followed by two years of sub-$200 million spending to round out the decade.
The gradual drop in 50-seat CRJ maintenance spending is no surprise; fleets heading rapidly for retirement are not great long-term aftermarket spending generators. The biggest regional jet (RJ) users—namely North American mainline carriers and their regional partners—are moving away from smaller RJs, and quickly. Delta Air Lines' new pilot agreement, for instance, cuts the maximum number of 50-seat RJs to 125 from 350, while caps on larger RJs were boosted.
Aviation Week data show about 830 50-seat CRJs in service or storage. That figure is expected to dip below 600 by 2018 and fall to 100 or so in 2022.
The small RJ's demise is no mystery. The spike in per-gallon jet fuel prices to $3.90 in June 2008 from $2 in April 2007 forced airlines to take fresh looks at costs. They responded with a capacity-tightening strategy that includes replacing their smallest jets with larger aircraft—or nothing at all.
While fuel prices dropped, they have not been below $2.50 since 2010. Therefore, Delta CEO Richard Anderson says that 50-seaters are no longer economical beyond stage lengths of 300-350 mi. In practical terms, that means fewer Atlanta-Albany, N.Y. routes (852 mi.) and more Atlanta-Albany, Ga. ones (146 mi.).