Wingtips56
Topic Author
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Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:26 am

This has probably been discussed at length, but I'm new-ish here, and didn't find this in a Forum search.

What is in the future for airliners to serve small town or traditional short-hop commuter/connecting markets? The Jetstreams and SAAB 340s are all but rotting in the desert, the EMB-120's days are numbered, and the short-body DHC-8s are fading from view. I live in a remote EMB-120 market, so I'm concerned we could be left without service once they are all retired, and I don't see manufacturers coming up with replacement aircraft in the 19-35 seat range. Many markets are strong enough to support some air service, especially if they qualify for EAS subsidies, but even the ERJ-135 fleet is oversized for them.

Do airlines like SkyWest intend to withraw from their EMB-120 markets when the planes are withdrawn, or is there a new generation of small turbo-props in the offing? California is a big state, but there is hardly any non-hub, P2P service left like there used to be. For the record, I started work in 1979 with a commuter in SMF. Back then, SMF was connected to CEC, ACV, RDD, CIC, SFO, SJC, FAT, BFL, SPB, SMX, SBA, OXR, VIS and other points. Now, only CEC/ACV and SFO remain, and it's largely due to the retirement of everything smaller than the Brasilia. (OK, there is the QX Q400 going to SJC, but that's just part of the BOI-SMF-SJC-BOI round-robin that doesn't really count for SMF-SJC local.)
Worked for WestAir, Apollo Airways, Desert Pacific, Western, AirCal and American Airlines
 
2175301
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:48 am

The Twin Otter is back in production (19 seater) and there are several other planes in that size range.

Viking has talked of bringing back other planes (and I believe the Buffalo is next - mainly for military service). Viking has the rights to the Dash 7; and could potentially pick up the rights to the Dash 8 series 100 and 200 in the future (but that is probably 5-10 years away - and probably depends on the success of the Q400 such that Bombardier would not mind giving up a small number of smaller Dash 8 planes that they are not going to produce anyway - the same logic behind Bombardier selling the Type certificates to the DHC-1 - DHC-7 to Viking in the first place).

Have a great day,
 
Wingtips56
Topic Author
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:56 am

The Viking Otters are OK for very short distance island hopping, and of course float-plane operations, but I'd hate to grind out 300+ miles in one. With 4 engines, I doubt anyone would want the Dash 7 back. New Q100/Q200 would work in some markets if they could pick up the speed, like the Q400. But there still is the long and very thin range of aircraft missing.
Worked for WestAir, Apollo Airways, Desert Pacific, Western, AirCal and American Airlines
 
2175301
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:18 am

I agree that the Dash 7 is dead. But the Dash 8 - 200 probably would have modest sales - even without a speed increase . There is no reason to bring back the 100.

Have a great day,
 
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RWA380
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:32 pm

I have often wondered what QQ was planning to do when they retire the EMB-120's, as there is no other aircraft in their fleet that would be able to operate it's routes with the same profitability. I guess they could do what AS/QX did, and drop smaller cities, or they have to find an appropriate replacement in big way, they'll need to get a good number of frames.
707, 717, 720, 727-1/2, 737-1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9, 747-1/2/3/4, 757, 767-2/3/4, 777, DC-8-5/6/7, DC-9-1/3/5, MD-80/2/3/7/8, DC-10-10/30/40, MD-11, F-27, F-28, SWM, J31, D38, DH7, DH8, DH4 SD-330, B-146, L-1011-2/500, ATR-42/72, VCV, A-300/310/318/319/320, CR2/7
 
smws
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:14 pm

Wouldn't the ATR-42's kinda fit the bill? Or are they too large?

The good thing about these short commuters is that they're all fairly simple airplanes that are easy to maintain and keep in service. So a new model, theoretically, isn't even needed right now. Maybe in 10+ years?

[Edited 2012-07-06 06:16:50]
 
sunking737
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:37 pm

Quoting smws (Reply 5):
The good thing about these short commuters is that they're all fairly simple airplanes that are easy to maintain and keep in service. So a new model, theoretically, isn't even needed right now. Maybe in 10+ years?

The older the a/c the more it costs to maintain, airframe, power plant and avionics.
Just an MSPAVGEEK
 
smws
Posts: 65
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:49 pm

Quoting sunking737 (Reply 6):
The older the a/c the more it costs to maintain, airframe, power plant and avionics.

That's true, of course. But what could the reasoning be behind lack of new regional commuter turboprops being designed and manufactured, then? Is the economy still in such a bad shape for regional airlines that servicing old planes is more economic?

That said, ATR's latest 42 model 42-600 flew for the first time in 2010. With increased speed (267 vs. 299 knots) and vastly improved range (480 NM vs. 840 NM), it promises great possibilities.
 
KarlB737
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:56 pm

Here is a city and an aircraft not yet mentioned that is doing quite well:

Courtesy: WGEM-TV - Video Report At Link

Cape Air Flights Out Of Quincy Are On The Rise

"The service operates nonstop to and from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport using nine-passenger Cessna 402 aircrafts."

http://www.wgem.com/story/18934345/c...ghts-out-of-quincy-are-on-the-rise
 
northstardc4m
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:48 pm

Quoting 2175301 (Reply 3):

I agree that the Dash 7 is dead. But the Dash 8 - 200 probably would have modest sales - even without a speed increase . There is no reason to bring back the 100.

Bombardier did say that production of the Q200 and Q300 could be restarted if there was demand.
The Q100 is dead, was discontinued around 2002 as i recall, well before the other 2 entered "suspended" status.

Another major question coming up is Air Canada Express. Jazz operates a massive fleet of DH8-100 and -300s. The -300s could be swapped out to Q400s sure, but the -100s serve destinations too light for the Q400 to be efficient on.
Now if AC cuts the flying for Jazz and brings in other operators the point might be less important, but if Jazz/Chorus stays around in minty green, they will need to replace their very aged Dash 8s sooner rather than later. Sure they aren't showing their age as much as you would expect but I can't believe that some of the airframes aren't getting more expensive to fix/keep airworthy than they are worth?

[Edited 2012-07-06 07:52:01]
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
 
AirbusA6
Posts: 1502
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:53 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:09 pm

Quoting Wingtips56 (Thread starter):
What is in the future for airliners to serve small town or traditional short-hop commuter/connecting markets? The Jetstreams and SAAB 340s are all but rotting in the desert, the EMB-120's days are numbered, and the short-body DHC-8s are fading from view. I live in a remote EMB-120 market, so I'm concerned we could be left without service once they are all retired, and I don't see manufacturers coming up with replacement aircraft in the 19-35 seat range. Many markets are strong enough to support some air service, especially if they qualify for EAS subsidies, but even the ERJ-135 fleet is oversized for them.

I agree, there does seem, that after the glut of commuter planes seating 19 - 35 seats back in the 80s, we now have no modern product - BAE and SAAB have pulled out, while Embraer and Bombardier have moved to larger planes. The Twin Otter is a much more rugged product and unpressurized, so not really a contender, the ATR42 is a bit large.

Previously, new manufacturers would start with a small prop, whereas now they all want to build a regional jet, hence the overcrowded market there now. Surely this is the type of market a new entrant, e.g. India ought to be going for, after all Embraer started with a small prop (EMB 110) and it didn't work out too badly for them!
it's the bus to stansted (now renamed National Express a6 to ruin my username)
 
doug_or
Posts: 3138
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 9:55 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:20 pm

Quoting smws (Reply 7):
That's true, of course. But what could the reasoning be behind lack of new regional commuter turboprops being designed and manufactured, then?

It is because they are not any simpler or easier to maintain that much larger aircraft. While a Caravan or a Tw'otter might have fewer and simpler systems a pressurized 20+ seater is going to have all the systems of a Q400 or ATR-72, split over fewer seats. In the mid-90s I think Dornier was asking 7 or so mil for one of their shiny new 328 turboprops. With inflation I'd have to assume the costs now would be closer to 15 million.
When in doubt, one B pump off
 
tdscanuck
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RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:24 pm

Quoting Wingtips56 (Thread starter):
Many markets are strong enough to support some air service, especially if they qualify for EAS subsidies

If they need subsidies then, by definition, they're not strong enough to support some air service.

Quoting smws (Reply 7):
But what could the reasoning be behind lack of new regional commuter turboprops being designed and manufactured, then?

Opportunity cost; there are better places for the airframe OEM's to put the extremely large development cost of new aircraft.

Quoting smws (Reply 7):
Is the economy still in such a bad shape for regional airlines that servicing old planes is more economic?

Pretty much. Margins on regionals tend to be razor thin; they have enough to keep up with the day-to-day operating expense but they're hard pressed to get the funds needed for new capital investment. Leasing helps but requires a long-term viable business plan to get good terms and that's hard for many regional carriers.

Tom.
 
northstardc4m
Posts: 2754
Joined: Fri Apr 28, 2000 11:23 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:32 pm

Quoting AirbusA6 (Reply 10):
Previously, new manufacturers would start with a small prop, whereas now they all want to build a regional jet, hence the overcrowded market there now. Surely this is the type of market a new entrant, e.g. India ought to be going for, after all Embraer started with a small prop (EMB 110) and it didn't work out too badly for them!

That's not out of the question... but I don't think India will be the source, unless they start producing an existing design like the Do328 or Saab 340 or Q200, but China could do that just as easily.

I could see a new regional prop coming out of Europe or the US actually.
A new CASA C.295 based 40 seater with a new tail maybe? (yes yes i know CN.235 didn't sell very well).
A restart of the Do.328-120 maybe? I mean the Do228NG is selling?

In the US a new design could float out of left field... like a new 25 seater with new high efficiency powerplant... shrug?
Or again a new production line for an upgraded Dornier 328/Saab 340/? in Alabama or somewhere in the "right to work" states anyways?

The current fleet has i would estimate 10 years left before aircraft actually start to literally fall apart. The EMB-120 and Dash 8-100/200/300 will probably last longest, but Consider how quickly the Jetstream 41 has left the field, and the Saab 340 is now following in many ways. Something that will complicate the whole thing will be the over-saturation of 50 seat RJs coming into the used market as the majors shove more and more out of their fleets, more and more will be displaced into services where older turboprops currently serve and further affecting the resale potential of the "current" 22-50 seater turboprops.

The B1900D will also need a replacement around the 2020-2025 mark for the remaining 3rd tier operations, though there are some options for it (Viking Twotter, Do228NG, etc), slower, less comfortable and unpressurized as they may be.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
 
MDW22L31C
Posts: 182
Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 7:03 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 4:48 pm

I miss the E-120 flights from ONT-LAX and SNA-LAX. Saved me a lot of time dirving into LAX .
 
Goldenshield
Posts: 5015
Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2001 3:45 pm

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:28 pm

Quoting RWA380 (Reply 4):
I have often wondered what QQ was planning to do when they retire the EMB-120's,

Reno Air had MD-80's.
Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
 
doug_or
Posts: 3138
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 9:55 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:33 pm

Northstar, you bring up some very good points.

Quoting northstardc4m (Reply 13):
Something that will complicate the whole thing will be the over-saturation of 50 seat RJs coming into the used market as the majors shove more and more out of their fleets

Very true. While the 50 seaters might have poor trip costs, this can be largely offset by their very low aquisition costs and I would assume, by the ease in getting parts. It might be hard to justify the cost of a new turboprop (which passengers will still generally view as inferior) when an RJ can be had for 1/10 of the cost. The RJ's economics get much wrose with high fuel prices, but will a manufacturer be willing to bet the many millions in development costs and factory set up on assumptions of future commodity prices? It seems to follow the trend that always comes in these sub 50 seat threads- high risk, low reward.

Quoting northstardc4m (Reply 13):
Or again a new production line for an upgraded Dornier 328/Saab 340/? in Alabama or somewhere in the "right to work" states anyways?

A restart of the 328 would be great, and on the surface it makes the most sense, since it is the most modern and advanced of the 30 seat designs. I wonder though, if its advanced design and emphasis on speed and comfort might actually be liabilities. In a market segment lacking competition, would the cheapest pressurized model actually be the most economically viable?

Quoting northstardc4m (Reply 13):
The B1900D will also need a replacement around the 2020-2025 mark for the remaining 3rd tier operations, though there are some options for it (Viking Twotter, Do228NG, etc), slower, less comfortable and unpressurized as they may be.

My feeling is that the simple unpressurized 19 seaters will probably rule this segment. The market for new built "premium" (relatively fast and pressurized) 19 seater seems to no longer exist in developed world, and I assume (perhaps incorrectly?) that businesses developing countries will not buy new built frames (in high enough numbers to justify design and production).
When in doubt, one B pump off
 
doug_or
Posts: 3138
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 9:55 am

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:36 pm

Quoting Goldenshield (Reply 15):
Reno Air had MD-80's.

And MD-90s. And J-31s in their express fleet. But it is pretty clear from the context that the poster was referring to OO, SkyWest.
When in doubt, one B pump off
 
EricR
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Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:15 pm

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:06 pm

Quoting Wingtips56 (Thread starter):
What is in the future for airliners to serve small town or traditional short-hop commuter/connecting markets?


My two cents for what its worth.....

The population trend over the past several decades has seen a shift from smaller towns or rural areas towards larger metro areas. This trend is not good for the future of air service in smaller communities. Airlines cannot profitably serve areas where there are not enough passengers to fill the flights. Therefore, I think the future is not very bright for smaller communities nor smaller airliners.

However, there are a few exceptions. For example, new or additional service could be provided to cities where newly discovered energy sources provide jobs and a strong economic environment. One area that comes to mind is the Dakotas.

The other exception are those cities that qualify for EAS. However, I think EAS may go the way of the dinosaur soon. EAS is a waste of money and the government will inevitably have to (or should) make cuts to the EAS program in an attempt to balance the budget and reduce the debt.

Quoting Wingtips56 (Thread starter):
California is a big state, but there is hardly any non-hub, P2P service left like there used to be.


Most regional carriers now get the majority of their income from mainline partnerships. Regional carriers had to realign their business model to better support this new partnership. This meant converting their P2P route structure in favor of the mainline carrier's hub & spoke structure.

[Edited 2012-07-06 12:21:24]
 
Goldenshield
Posts: 5015
Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2001 3:45 pm

RE: Future Small Airliners

Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:13 pm

Quoting doug_Or (Reply 17):
But it is pretty clear from the context that the poster was referring to OO, SkyWest.

Yes, he was, but O and Q are on completely opposite sides of the keyboard. There should be ZERO mistaking this. This is not the first, or even second time, I've had to point this out to him.

[Edited 2012-07-06 12:14:54]
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