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Final Bombardier CRJ Leaves Assembly
On Sunday, the final Bombardier CRJ aircraft came off the assembly line at the manufacturer’s Mirabel plant in Canada, marking the end of the jet’s 30-year history and the closing of the facility. The CRJ-900, registered N840SK, is the 1,945th produced and will be delivered to Delta Air Lines and operated by SkyWest Airlines.
SkyWest is one of the primary operators of the aircraft, with 371 in the fleet. The regional carrier flies the CRJ on behalf of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines as Delta Connection, American Eagle and United Express, respectively.
While this is the end of CRJ production, Mitsubishi Aircraft bought the program from Bombardier in 2020 and plans to provide maintenance and spare parts for CRJ aircraft currently flying worldwide. However, it appears that the company will scrap CRJ manufacturing altogether and instead improve on it with its SpaceJet model, which was initially built as a competitor to Bombardier’s CRJ and Embraer’s ERJ. However, the SpaceJet has failed to gain momentum due to prolonged production time, which was further delayed by the pandemic.
The End of an Era
The CRJ program has been a success in the regional aircraft market since its first flight in 1991. It gained popularity among major carriers that wanted to connect smaller markets with major hubs.
However, the industry has changed with the rise of point-to-point routes. Low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air have ditched the hub-and-spoke model in favor of direct routes between secondary airports using mid-sized jets, like the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. As a result, larger, more comfortable and more efficient jets like the successful Embraer E170s and E190s became favorable.
In response, Bombardier tried to create the C-Series jet to go up against the E-Jet, but it proved too costly. As a result, Bombardier sold the project to Airbus, which renamed it the A220. Since selling the CRJ program to Mitshubishi, Bombardier said it would be focusing on its series of business jets and no longer produce commercial aircraft. It sold the CRJ program for $550 million cash and $200 million in liabilities after failing to manufacture a plane that could compete with Airbus, Boeing and Embraer.
Mitsubishi SpaceJet Program
Because of changes in business strategy and the impact of the pandemic, the retirement of older regional jets will likely speed up in the next few years, and a larger, more efficient replacement will be needed. Mitsubishi hopes that its acquisition of the CRJ program will push its SpaceJet program forward, especially since the company can keep Bombardier’s customer base.
However, the future of SpaceJet is in limbo. In October 2020, the company paused the program due to the pandemic, and it has since reduced its staff and cut the SpaceJet’s budget.
Since the announcement, the SpaceJet program has lost even more momentum and the interest of buyers. While Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have kept their orders for the aircraft, US leasing company Aerolease canceled its order of ten jets. Furthermore, Swedish company Rockton told Smart Aviation APAC that it does not plan to purchase the plane even though it had already signed a letter-of-intent for ten aircraft.
Only 167 orders remain, most of which were purchased by SkyWest and Mesa Airlines. The delivery of the first aircraft to All Nippon Airways was initially set for 2022, but that will likely be pushed back further. Since the program’s launch in 2007, only eight test aircraft have been produced, and none have been delivered.
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