Air Transport World

Commuter-regional converts - making modern machines from old standards.

Commuter/regional converts--making modern machines from old standards

An aviation sage once said, "Old airframes never die, they just become outdated.' Outdated, maybe, but not necessarily out of service.

Since the advent of the new-generation commuter/regional airliners, several conversion programs for existing airframes have sprung up. Virtually all of the builders cite the same goals: update powerplants and/or avionics; extend the useful life of the airframe; lower maintenance and operating costs; provide lots of inexpensive seats.

Raw material for these programs abounds in the industry. Looking around the fleet lists of the American regional industry offers several examples of "old-generation' airframes still making money for operators. Numerous Douglas DC-3s still fly in scheduled service, as do virtually all Convair models. Down size a bit, some small general aviation singles and twins continue to supply seats for scheduled carriers.

On paper, conversions indeed look attractive. But in the real world of modern operating and financing, looking good doesn't always assure sales. But the programs continue, in spite of lackluster sales response.

What follows are profiles of four active conversion programs. Two of them use the same airframe. They have several other points in common, mainly low-costs. …

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