As smaller CRJs—including some relatively young ones—head for storage, some industry officials suggest the shift of a few variables could create opportunities for the 50-seaters.
If fuel prices fall low enough, rock-bottom acquisition costs could make 50-seaters ideal for stopgap lift or an adventurous hyper-regional airline.
“You can . . . imagine an environment where everyone is trying to get large regional jets and, as a result, large regional lift becomes expensive and 50-seat regional lift becomes inexpensive,” said Scott Kirby, US Airways president, this spring.
“We’re agnostic about whether we have 50-seaters or larger regional jets. It’s all about the economics. Today, the economics of large regional jets are better, but five years from now, that might be different.”
Globally, there is some hope that emerging markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East could find use for some displaced CRJs. But those opportunities will pale in comparison to the regional jet’s heyday during the mid-2000s in North America.
CRJs have several current airworthiness directives (AD) calling for part or component swaps. Transport Canada (TC) AD CF-2013-12, issued in April, calls for inspection and eventual replacement of CRJ100/200/440 pilot-side rudder pedal tubes. Deadlines vary based on the aircraft’s service history; those with 37,000 or more cycles require swaps within 300 cycles.
A February directive (CF-2013-03) orders initial replacement of CRJ700/900/1000s’ left- and right-side elevator bell-crank supports at designated flight-hour limits depending on the aircraft time in service. The process must be repeated every 20,000 flight hours following the initial swap.
In January 2012, TC issued CF 2012-06, requiring CRJ operators to install new sensing elements in the main landing-gear wheel well and the over-wing area, protective blankets on the upper surface of the wing box and fuel tubes, and protective shields on the rudder quadrant support-beam in the aft equipment compartment. The fixes, which help ensure high-pressure-duct bleed air leaks are detected quickly, must be done by Feb. 9, 2014, or within 6,600 flight hours, whichever comes first.