One Type Does Not Fit All

It all boils down to un­der­stand­ing your busi­ness needs and care­fully se­lect­ing the right air­craft, tur­bo­prop or a jet, that matches these needs

SP's Aviation - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY R. CHAN­DRAKANTH

ONE THING IS CLEAR that ‘one size does not fit all’ in air­lines busi­ness. There are solo planes to jumbo jets such as the Air­bus A380, the world’s largest com­mer­cial air­liner. There are broad seat seg­men­ta­tions and also the dis­tance that the air­craft can fly in com­mer­cial avi­a­tion which go to de­ter­mine the busi­ness model of the op­er­a­tor. The ques­tion, how­ever, here is what kind of room ex­ists for tur­bo­prop air­craft and jets and the an­swer to that is cer­tainly ‘one size does not fit all,’ hence both tur­bo­props and jets have their own play.

It is very clear that tur­bo­props are for short haul flights, while jets are for medium and long haul flights. An op­er­a­tor with a ju­di­cious mix of air­craft can cap­ture both the short and medium and long haul mar­kets. That is what In­dia’s largest low-cost pas­sen­ger car­rier In­diGo is plan­ning to do. Presently, it has market share of 41.4 per cent as of April 2017. Since its in­cep­tion in Au­gust 2006, In­diGo has grown from a car­rier with one plane to a fleet of 135. And now In­diGo has an­nounced a pro­vi­sional or­der for 50 ATR 72 planes, turbo-

FOR RE­GIONAL JETS, THE MARKET IS TREND­ING TO­WARDS LARGER 100/150SEAT SEG­MENT LIKE THE SEC­OND-GEN­ER­A­TION EM­BRAER E-JETS E2 AND THE C SERIES

prop air­craft which is highly suit­able for short haul mar­kets. Low-cost air­lines which have been suc­cess­ful and In­diGo is cer­tainly one of them, have placed their faith in the eco­nomics of a tur­bo­prop to cap­ture fur­ther market share, us­ing the huband-spoke model. In­diGo is look­ing at re­gional routes which are typ­i­cally 200-300 nau­ti­cal miles and these kind of routes are just wait­ing to be opened up.

TUR­BO­PROPS SLOW BUT STEADY

Tur­bo­props fly at op­ti­mal speeds on short dis­tances while jets spend lesser time at the most ef­fi­cient al­ti­tudes and speeds. When com­pared to pure-jet air­craft, it is clear that tur­bo­props do not fly as fast. How­ever, a tur­bo­prop air­craft can use grass air­fields whereas most jets re­quire a con­crete run­way for take­off and land­ing. Mod­ern twin-tur­bo­prop air­craft are as com­fort­able and well equipped as jets. Over­all, tur­bo­props have a lower cost of op­er­a­tion and, for com­pa­nies fly­ing fairly short sec­tors of maybe 300 or 400 nau­ti­cal miles, the time penalty com­pared with jets is neg­li­gi­ble.

As re­gards re­gional jets, the market is trend­ing to­wards larger 100/150-seat seg­ment like the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Em­braer E-Jets E2 and the C Series blur­ring the boundaries be­tween re­gional and main­line. In our ear­lier is­sues we have pointed out how re­gional avi­a­tion air­craft ini­tially pow­ered by pis­ton en­gines were re­placed by tur­bo­prop air­craft that pro­vided higher re­li­a­bil­ity with equiv­a­lent or better op­er­at­ing econ­omy. As tur­bo­fan en­gines im­proved in ef­fi­ciency, jet­lin­ers with sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity as tur­bo­prop re­gional air­craft, nar­rowed the op­er­at­ing econ­omy gap while emerg­ing as pre­ferred op­tion as these pro­vided better com­fort, higher speed and better air­craft util­i­sa­tion rate. This spawned the birth of the re­gional jet­liner.

HUB AND SPOKE MODEL

The first set of 50-seat re­gional jet­lin­ers, the CRJ100/200 from Bom­bardier and EMB135/145 from Em­braer, made way to larger ca­pac­ity jet­liner namely the Em­braer ERJ170/175 and the CRJ700, both had taken to the skies in 1999. With the ex­pan­sion of air­lines, the hub-and-spoke model was chal­lenged with these air­craft of re­gional ca­pac­ity (70-80 seats) and main­line range (1,000 to 2,000 nm), which promised di­rect re­gional air­field con­nec­tiv­ity as “long, thin routes”, whereas the ATR 72 re­gional tur­bo­prop with 72 seats, could fly only 800 nm.

To bridge the gap be­tween these new re­gional jet of­fer­ings and the tur­bo­prop, Bom­bardier in­tro­duced the DHC-8400 which in 1999 be­came the Q400. This air­craft pro­vided slightly greater range, speed and ca­pac­ity but with the unrivalled op­er­at­ing eco­nomics of a tur­bo­prop. The longer range of the re­gional jets, 1,000 nm to 2,000 nm, is sold as “lend­ing flex­i­bil­ity” to routes and network. No cus­tomer the world over has ever com­plained of ad­di­tional range. How­ever, with most re­gional routes not ex­ceed­ing 300 nm, due to the pop­u­larly adopted hub-and-spoke model, the ben­e­fit of longer range is not suf­fi­cient to at­tract op­er­a­tors.

OP­ER­AT­ING ECO­NOMICS

The ATR 72, as we have men­tioned in our ear­lier is­sues, is the lesser of the two tur­bo­props in per­for­mance, but dis­plays better fuel econ­omy. For a typ­i­cal Ben­galuru-Hy­der­abad sec­tor, which is 250 nm, the air­craft con­sumes ap­prox­i­mately 770 kg of fuel. The Q400 con­sumes close to 1,000 kg, the CRJ-700 con­sumes close to 1,200 kg, and the Em­braer E-170 1,300 kg; all three air­craft car­ry­ing 78 pas­sen­gers. Fuel con­sump­tion for the re­gional jets will op­er­a­tionally be lower, as even with

THE TUR­BO­PROP MARKET IS MOD­ESTLY BIG WITH THE YEARLY GROWTH IN SALES THAT ONLY VALIDATES THE OP­ER­AT­ING ECO­NOMICS OF SUCH AIR­CRAFT

a full pas­sen­ger load, the fuel burnt for a 250 nm trip is just 10-13 per cent of the tank ca­pac­ity, keep­ing the air­craft close to 4,000 kg lighter than the max­i­mum take-off weight and thus burn­ing lesser fuel. Fuel is the largest cost dif­fer­en­tia­tor be­tween tur­bo­props and re­gional jets. Being in sim­i­lar weight cat­e­gories, op­er­at­ing sim­i­lar sec­tors, land­ing and park­ing fees are sim­i­lar. Con­sid­er­ing that the faster tur­bo­prop and the much faster jets can squeeze in ex­tra flights per day, the main­te­nance costs go up, but so does revenue gen­er­a­tion. Thanks to en­gine de­vel­op­ments there are sig­nif­i­cant in­cre­men­tal ben­e­fits for air­lines. Geared tur­bo­fan en­gines (GTF), which will power the Bom­bardier C Series, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Em­braer EJets and the Air­bus­neo, of­fer greater fuel economies. How­ever, no GTF air­plane in the 70-90 seat seg­ment is ex­pected in the com­ing few years and even a GTF pow­ered air­craft can­not out­per­form the tur­bo­prop’s eco­nomics.

The tur­bo­prop market is mod­estly big with the yearly growth in sales that only validates the op­er­at­ing eco­nomics of such air­craft. How­ever, with two man­u­fac­tur­ers sell­ing close to 100 tur­bo­props, the market is not big enough to ac­com­mo­date a third man­u­fac­turer: Em­braer had, at one point of time, mulled a re­turn to the tur­bo­prop market but gave up.

MAR­KETS OPEN UP

Fore­cast In­ter­na­tional in a study on “The Market for Re­gional Trans­port Air­craft” had pro­jected that 3,817 re­gional air­craft will be pro­duced from 2016 through 2025. This to­tal in­cludes both re­gional jets and re­gional tur­bo­prop air­lin­ers.

The re­gional air­craft market is sta­bil­is­ing fol­low­ing a pe­riod of sev­eral years of er­ratic swings in yearly pro­duc­tion. The study pre­dicted that an­nual out­put will remain rel­a­tively flat in 2017 at just over 340 units. The longer-term out­look, though, is more bullish, as an­nual pro­duc­tion is pro­jected to reach more than 420 units by the year 2025.

This growth will be fu­elled by the pro­duc­tion ramp-ups of such new re­gional jet­liner mod­els as the Bom­bardier CS100, the Em­braer E2 fam­ily, and the Mit­subishi MRJ90. Ac­cord­ing to Fore­cast In­ter­na­tional se­nior aero­space an­a­lyst Ray­mond Ja­worowski, “Over­all de­mand in the re­gional jet market is al­ready mov­ing to­wards larger ca­pac­ity air­craft, but the over­all po­ten­tial of the seg­ment con­tin­ues to be ham­pered by scope clause re­stric­tions in the US market.”

The Fore­cast In­ter­na­tional study also in­cludes man­u­fac­turer market share pro­jec­tions. Based on unit pro­duc­tion, Em­braer, ATR, Bom­bardier and Mit­subishi are pro­jected to be the lead­ing re­gional air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers dur­ing the 2016-25 fore­cast pe­riod. Em­braer is pro­jected to build 959 re­gional jet­lin­ers dur­ing the time frame. ATR is ex­pected to pro­duce 783 re­gional tur­bo­props. Bom­bardier, which pro­duces both jets and tur­bo­props, is fore­cast to build 591 re­gional air­craft. Mit­subishi is pro­jected to pro­duce 437 re­gional jets. ATR fur­ther con­sol­i­dated its po­si­tion in 2016 as the pre­ferred choice of re­gional air­lines. The mod­ern ATR 600s ranked first among all re­gional air­craft sales of the year, with or­ders for 36 air­craft (34 ATR 72-600s and 2 ATR 42-600s). ATR con­firms its lead­ing po­si­tion in the seg­ment of 50- to 90-seat air­craft with a market share above 35 per cent since 2010.

TUR­BO­PROP OR JET DE­PENDS UPON

It pri­mar­ily de­pends on the busi­ness model of the op­er­a­tors as an air­craft is de­signed around mis­sion re­quire­ments, namely pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity, re­quired range, air­field ac­ces­si­bil­ity and op­er­at­ing eco­nomics. Re­ally, it all boils down to un­der­stand­ing the op­er­a­tors’ busi­ness needs and care­fully se­lect­ing the right air­craft that matches these needs.

IDEAL FOR MEDIUM AND LONG HAUL: SEC­OND-GEN­ER­A­TION EM­BRAER E-JETS E2

HIGHLY SUIT­ABLE FOR SHORT HAUL MAR­KETS: IN­DIGO HAS AN­NOUNCED A PRO­VI­SIONAL OR­DER FOR 50 ATR 72 AIR­CRAFT

GAME-CHANG­ING EF­FI­CIENCY: THANKS TO MRJ’S GEARED TUR­BO­FAN EN­GINE TECH­NOL­OGY AND AD­VANCED AERO­DY­NAM­ICS, IT COSTS LESS TO FLY

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.