Air Transport World

Let the race begin: the high-speed Saab 2000 became the fourth regional aircraft to be unveiled in 1991. (Saab-Scania AB. Saab Aircraft Div.)

In the winter of 1987, Christer Skogsborg, newly appointed general manager of the Saab Aircraft Division, journeyed south to Zurich to inform Crossair President Moritz Suter that Saab could not afford to produce a larger, high-speed follow-on to its 340.

The news did not sit well with the demanding, cigar-toting Suter, whose airline was the launch customer for the 340A and B, the vehicle some Saab workers referred to as "the 340A done right." Sutter needed a larger, hot and high capable aircraft to handle points such as Lugano, where pilots have to approach the field on a 5 1/2 [degrees] glide slope.

He also wanted an aircraft that could shorten the tip time on longer routes. Crossair's 340s take 2 hir. and 20 min. to travel from Basel to Barcelona. The Saab 200 will make the trip in half the time.

"I told them: 'If they didn't build a larger aircraft, they would eventually be out of the commuter market', " Suter remembered during a seminar precedding the rollout ceremony here.

Inside knowledge may have colored Suter's prediction. In the mid-1980s, some Saab Scantia board members had lost confidence in the 340 due to the early-on problems with the GE CT-7 engine. They were recommending that the truck and car-making concern get out of regional-aircraft manufacturing and concentrate on its core business. The board's worry was exacerbated than by reports from the U.S. that partner Fairchild Aircraft of Farmingdale, N.Y. was going to abandon the program. Eventually, Fairchild did drop out and Saab took over 340 production to the betterment of all concerned.

Ironically, Suter told Skigsborg that he wanted the new aircraft to be GE-powered. The engine manufacturer had "moved heaven and earth" to correct problems with the CT07 and that was good enough for Suter.

Selling a larger, faster turboprop with the same engine manufacturer would be tough, even for Suter. For some time, the conservative Swedes had doubted the viability of a larger regional airliner. …

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