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Maintenance

Regal regional

Ian Goold considers maintenance of the Bombardier CRJ regional jet, for which 90% of US requirements are met by the manufacturer
 
Bombardier's Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) is dead, long live the CRJ! Well, no, the small jetliner is not yet ready to receive the traditional proclamation of regal succession, but the manufacturer is weighing its options. 
 
 Earlier this year the company sold the larger C Series narrowbody (now dubbed A220) to Airbus, and last month (November) its Dash 8/Q twin-turboprop was purchased by Canadian aerospace investor Longview Aviation Capital (LAC), parent of Viking Air. 
 
 Indeed, LAC also holds the type certificates and entire product line of the former de Havilland Aircraft of Canada (from DHC-1 Chipmunk trainer through the 19-seat DHC-6 Twin Otter to the 50-seat Dash 7), as well as the former Canadair CL-215, CL-215T, and CL-415 utility amphibian – both product lines having previously been absorbed into Bombardier (which also owns Short Brothers and Learjet).
 
 Following the Dash 8/Q sale, Bombardier revealed that its ‘full attention’ was turning to the CRJ. "As we continue to actively participate in the regional aircraft market, our focus is on reducing cost and increasing volumes, while optimising the aftermarket for approximately 1,500 CRJs in service around the world. As we look to return the CRJ to profitability, we will also explore strategic options for the programme."
 
 It was more than 25 years ago that Lufthansa CityLine, a staunch supporter of the design from the beginning, received the first 50-seat CRJ Series 100 (CRJ100) in late 1992 – since then the aircraft has ‘always been the backbone of our fleet’. 
 
CityLine's CRJ100s are long gone, of course, as the operator successively introduced CRJ200 (both models more properly designated Bombardier CL-600-2B19s, as certificated), and increasingly large up-to-78-passenger CRJ700 (CL-600-2C10 and -2D15), and 90-seat ‘great-grandson’ CRJ900 (CL-600-2D24) variants. 
 
 CityLine is a Bombardier approved service facility for CRJ700 and 900 maintenance. Its original CRJ100, since upgraded to 200 status, remained at CityLine for 13 years, and is thought to be still active in East Africa, but the company has never operated the 4-passenger CRJ1000 (CL-600-2E25).
 
 Recent Bombardier CRJ development considerations have included reengineing, introduction of C Series health management system (HMS), and a new passenger cabin, while it has extended maintenance inspection intervals and received approval for CRJ700 and 900 operations in higher-temperature conditions.
 
 Of the considered developments, the ATMOSPHÈRE cabin was introduced at July's Farnborough International Airshow, offering ‘improved sightlines, wider aisle, more-open entrance, the largest windows in their class, LED lighting, connectivity solutions, [and] wifi streaming’. The launch operator is Delta Air Lines, which planned to introduce it on new two-class, 70-passenger CRJ900s before the end of 2018.
 
 Also this year, Bombardier has been considering both new and retrofit applications of a modified C Series HMS for the CRJ family, but has rejected replacement of the type's GE Aviation CF34 powerplants. Alternative available engines, possibly including GE's Passport design, are understood to be considered too heavy to provide advantages other than offering improved efficiency. By the beginning of 2018's fourth quarter, Bombardier had taken overall orders for 1,946 aircraft, including a backlog comprising some 50 CRJ900s, five CRJ1000s, and a single CRJ700 Series 701. The manufacturer's optimism at this year's Singapore Airshow – if well-founded – could see the design's orderbook exceed 2,000.
 
 With the prospect of replacement requirements yet to appear as new orders, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft Senior Vice President Sales and Asset Management Colin Bole expected business from operators in North America. "[We suspect] a lot of activity will be from replacement and up-gauging regional jets in the United States."
 
 International consultancy ICF does not see the matter so clearly. Rather, its analysts foresee early termination of CRJ700 production, followed by that of the larger variants in the next ten years (see Tables X and Y).
 
 "Most of the CRJ100 fleet are over 20 years old and, with a relatively small fleet of 46 in-service aircraft, it is expected that most will be retired over the next decade," says ICF. With both models out of production, it suggests the CRJ200 will also disappear during the same period.
 
 "Production of the CRJ700 has declined significantly, and only six have been delivered since 2012. With the low production rate and absence of any substantial firm orders, it is expected that [manufacture] will be closed in the near future." 
 
 ICF is more positive about the remaining variants. "The CRJ900 and, to a lesser extent, the CRJ1000, do have some backorders, and we expect that there will be a moderate decline in numbers over the next decade."
 
Asked if heavy maintenance (HMx) demand essentially reflects CRJ delivery trends, and if different rates of aircraft utilisation, or different maintenance practices smooth out peaks and troughs in demand, maintenance companies see the market as uncomplicated and somewhat predictable.
 
 Netherlands-based SAMCO Aircraft Maintenance, which has completed more than ten base checks in the past two years, says that peaks in demand do not vary much because operators ‘mostly’ follow maintenance planning document (MPD) schedule requirements. "The CRJ schedule is relatively straightforward, and HMx visits (HMVs) can be predicted and planned [well] in advance." 
 
 Accordingly, SAMCO believes the original delivery schedule ‘forms the basis for the trend in the maintenance demand globally’. The 30-year-old company, based at Maastricht Airport, specialises in regional jet and turboprop aircraft, and can accommodate four aircraft simultaneously, with a typical C check downtime of two to three weeks.
 
 AAR's Airframe Maintenance Vice President, Troy Jonas says demand for CRJ maintenance is "very predictable, and we work closely with customers to ensure we have capacity and to optimise the schedule to support their operational requirements. Looking at our own customer base, there seems to be a high demand on CRJ700/900/1000 HMx". >>
 

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