Global growth of regional aircraft has been significant in the past three decades, soaring by more than 380 percent from 1980 to 2012, according to Michael Miller, VP of valuations and consulting for aviation advisors AVITAS (Chantilly, Va., USA), in a report to the SpeedNews 18th Annual Regional & Business Aviation Industry Suppliers Conference held in Scottsdale, Ariz., USA, Nov. 6-8.
Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, reported that in the same time period, the number of passengers flying on regional aicraft increased from 15 million to 162 million (980 percent), flying 76 billion miles in 2012. These numbers represent both regional jets and turboprop aircraft, each carrying from 20 to 90 seats. Recently the 51- to 90-seat range is gaining favor, due mainly to larger aircraft being produced by Bombardier (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and Embraer (Sao Jose Dos Campos, Brazil). These two are dominant in the field, but are not alone. ATR, an Alenia Aermacchi and EADS joint venture based in Toulouse, France, is rapidly gaining market share and now represents 39 percent of the purchased aircraft in this segment, according to Guillaume Gasparri, president of ATR North America (Dulles, Virginia). Nipping at their empennages, so to speak, are regional developments by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (Nagoya, Japan) and Superjet International, an Alenia Aermacchi and Sukhoi company based in Venice, Italy,
While regional aircraft, flights and commercial connections have been increasing their share of air, they are far behind the commercial single-aisle planes — so-called narrowbody planes — notably the Airbus A319 and A320, and Boeing’s 737 and 757. Such single-aisle aircraft have climbed sharply up the charts to a count of 12,000 in 2012, compared to regional's total of 5,800, including jet and turboprop versions.
A plethora of business jets from Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream and HondaJet and are also competing with regional aircraft, but as Brian Foley, president of Brian Foley Associates (Sparta, N.J., USA) points out, political and economic pressures have depressed this market for some time, with the Economic Uncertainty Index showing Constant Uncertainty Since 2008. However, he sees improvement slowly ongoing and expects new products will extend jet delivery growth, especially in North America, until 2019.
All of these airframe areas are strong markets for composite materials and manufacturers. Composites are heavily incorporated into interiors, of course, but also into primary and secondary structure and some models — such as Bombardier’s Learjet 85 being built in Wichita, Kan., USA — feature all-composite structure.