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Skywest Extends CRJ Support Amid MRJ Uncertainty

US regional operator Skywest and its subsidiary ExpressJet have extended a heavy maintenance deal with Bombardier Services for an additional 10 years.

US regional operator Skywest and its subsidiary ExpressJet have extended a heavy maintenance deal with Bombardier Services for an additional 10 years.

While good news for Bombardier, the deal may be another nail in the coffin for Skywest’s order for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).

Skywest ordered 100 MRJ90s in 2012, but doubts have persisted about whether scope clause agreements can be adjusted to accept the aircraft, which at a maximum take-off weight of 39,600kg is a fraction over the limits set for regional aircraft pilots in the US.

While Skywest has never stated how many of its 433 Bombardier CRJ aircraft – comprising 234 CRJ200s, 135 CRJ700s and 64 CRJ900s – the MRJ order would replace, its new maintenance deal with Bombardier covers the entire Skywest and ExpressJet CRJ fleet.

“Bombardier’s CRJ Series airliners continue to be essential to our two airlines’ fleets and have helped our company become one of the largest regional jet operators in the world,” said Wade Steel, CCO, SkyWest.
Heavy checks can be performed at any of Bombardier’s maintenance facilities in the US, including Tucson Air Center, West Virginia Air Center and Macon Air Center.

Skywest was originally due to begin receiving the MRJ from 2017, but earlier this year its chief executive conceded that it wouldn’t be able to do so until scope clause contracts at partner carriers were altered.  

This fact could also prove a roadblock for Skywest’s order for 100 E175-E2 regional jets, a model that is also heavier than scope clauses at major carriers such as United and Delta allow.

Both Skywest and Trans State Holdings, another US customer for the MRJ and E2, hope that the next round of labour talks brings scope clause relief – a hope that was dashed in Delta’s last negotiations in 2015.

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, which has delayed first delivery of the aircraft until mid-2018, this means that its US customers probably welcome missed deadlines in the aircraft programme.

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