Last week Embraer representatives spoke about their anticipation to significantly increase the sales rates of the company’s 70- and 76-seat regional jets in the U.S. market. The expected spike in demand for larger jets can be attributed to the diminishing popularity of the traditional 50-seaters among airlines. Another manufacturer – Bombardier Aerospace – also forecasts a significant shift towards larger and more efficient regional jets around the world - the 60- to 99-seat jets segment alone will increase by over 270% during the upcoming 20 years. Such trend in the airlines market will directly impact the demand for the accordingly qualified MRO specialists, as well as the need to retrain the current generation of maintenance specialists.
The Brazilian producer Embraer anticipates that during the upcoming years the USA alone will require several hundreds of new regional jets. Frederico Curado, the company’s CEO, has indicated that the reshaping of U.S. fleet will be the major source of the demand. At the same time, the Canadian giant Bombardier is also shifting their focus onto larger regional jets. In December 2012 a major U.S. carrier – Delta Air Lines – placed an order for forty CRJ900s with an option to acquire 30 additional aircraft. In February 2013 a Russian leasing company Ilyushin Finance Co. ordered 32 CS300s with an option for another dozen aircraft of the kind.
Table 1. E-170/175/190/195 and CRJ 700/900/1000 backlog as of 31 December, 2012
‘U.S. airlines are actively looking for options to replace their 50-seaters. The development of regional aviation and the demand for constant fleet optimization drives carriers to replenish their fleets with newer generation aircraft. Similar trends can be observed outside North America as well. Europe is likely to sustain a strong demand for large regional jets. This also concerns the CIS region where several new E-Jets have already reached their operators. Furthermore, Russia has finally certified CRJ 700/900/1000 and E190/195. The potential of the Russian market in the upcoming 20 years is of somewhat several hundred of larger regional jets,’ comments Dainius Sakalauskas, the Deputy Head of FL Technics Training.
Apart for Embraer and Bombardier, other manufacturers are also keen on cutting their slice of the expanding regional jet market. Already by the end of 2013 the Chinese Comac is set to deliver its first ARJ-21 one of the 300 ordered aircraft, mainly awaited to be delivered to Asian companies. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation is also planning to enter the regional jet market with its 70-90-seat MRJ, the first delivery of which is planned for 2015. Meanwhile, the Russian Sukhoi Holding is actively increasing the sales of its Sukhoi SuperJet 100. Apart from some operators in Russia and the CIS, SSJ100 has been already delivered to Sky Aviation (Indonesia) and Lao Central (Laos) with an upcoming delivery to Interjet (Mexico).
Table 2. MRJ, ARJ21, SSJ 100 and CS300 backlog
While shifting from smaller to larger regional jets, airlines are forcing natural changes in the employment market of aircraft technicians. Among those affected the in-house specialists and technical staff of third party MRO providers will be topping the list of the most sought after employees.
‘Naturally, some of the current specialists will be able to support the re-fleeting processes. There a lot of various retraining programs which allow one to retrain, for example, from CRJ 200 to CRJ 900 type of aircraft within just a 2-month period. With theoretical courses to last about a month and the practical part – another several weeks, retraining comes as the most time-effective solution to meet the immediate needs. However, we must also address the pressing issue of retirement. Current generation of technicians cannot be tapped into forever. Along with the increasing number of aircraft orders, this forms a potential gap in the global market. It is highly important that the manufacturers of new aircraft types understand the need for a wider training network for the latest and upcoming regional jets. The lack of qualified maintenance personnel and/or possibilities to prepare adequately trained specialists would undoubtedly limit the development of a proper MRO network thus diminishing the competitiveness of new aircraft types,’ concluded D. Sakalauskas.