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Friday, June 8, 2007

Mesaba Takes First NW CRJ-900 NextGen

Bombardier (BBD) and Mesaba unveiled the CRJ NextGen family of aircraft when they took advantage of a proving run to show off the first delivery of Northwest’s (NWA) 36 CRJs which visited Washington on Tuesday. Set to replace the airline’s 69-seat Avros, the new aircraft has 12 first class seats and 64 coach seats in a two-by-two configuration with a 31-inch coach pitch. The second aircraft set for delivery is scheduled to be at The Paris Air Show but when it enters service in July is expected to serve Twin Cities to Fargo, St. Louis and Montreal.
The aircraft, dubbed the Soaring Eagle, entered service last Thursday between Minneapolis and Dallas-Fort Worth, Fargo, and Chicago’s Midway airports. The new aircraft will up-gauge current 50-seat CRJs or down-gauge from DC9s, allowing the major carrier to add service to the Midwest.
The NextGen changes increase the price of a CRJ-900 by $300,000 and a CRJ-700 by $250,000. Bombardier will fold the CRJ-900 NextGen deliveries into its production line this year, with the CRJ-700 NextGen in 2008 and the CRJ-1000 in the first quarter 2009. In the meantime, it will produce a mixture of current CRJs and NextGens between now and then.
Bombardier is touting a weight reduction for its improved economics although it is not revealing just how much weight has been reduced as a result of an increased use of composites. The changes result in cost savings include fuel savings of up to four percent with flight testing and technical improvements continuing. It will also have longer times between overhauls with A Checks occurring at 600 hours and C Checks at 6,000 hours and calendar inspections at three years. Bombardier has also optimized maintenance tasks, refining tasks to reduce labor cost and time and reducing out-of-phase maintenance intervals for fewer shop visits.
The manufacturer has also introduced new painting systems and anti-corrosion treatments that reduce weight. It promises a seven percent weight advantage for the CRJ-700, a two percent advantage or the CRJ-900 and a 22 percent advantage for the CRJ-1000 over similar Embraer products. Total economic advantage is 12 percent, eight percent and 15 percent, respectively. Also among the improvements are larger windows, interior lighting and increased bin size with bins on both sides of the aircraft. The bins offer a 40 percent increase in weight capacity, nine percent increase in bin volume, a 10.5-inch increase in the door opening to accommodate a 10.5” by 16” rollerbag.
The company is concentrating on the CRJ900 since most recent sales have been for that model. Indeed, the company has sold out the current configuration and said the next availability is NextGen. Some 1,538 CRJs are in operation with 52 customers in 22 countries, according to Rodney Williams, vice president-commercial operations, who indicated it has the third most departures per day worldwide. It also flies one fourth of all U.S. passengers and accounts for one third of the US fleet. Besides the CRJ-900, Mesaba flies Saab 340s and CRJ-200s.

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