Air Transport World

Paris preview: airframers push new 19-and over-50-seat designs (1987 Paris Air Show)

Pairs preview: Airframers push new 19- and over-50-seat designs

It's hard to perceive using a steady gaze, but the pendulum of airframe marketing at the regional end of the spectrum is swinging back toward more traditional sizes.

Early in this decade, a new strata of regional airliner took shape on the drawing boards of airframe manufacturers. These so-called "new-generation' turboprop airliners promised operators--particularly post-deregulation U.S. carriers--new efficiencies in a size of airliner long absent from the scene. The regional industry anxiously lined up for delivery positions.

The forecasters were right--mostly. The new category of hardware took the industry by storm. True to the forecasts, the tastest growing segment of the regional fleet, indeed, consists of these 30-50-seat airframes, now entering their third year in service.

But the predictions failed to address how American-style feed operations would affect airlines' buying habits. Sales figures today show that impact. While the 30-50 seaters have accounted for the largest dollar volume in sales and deliveries, the 15-19 seat class netted the largest unit sales.

And a whole new generation of over-50 seaters, spun off from new technologies mastered in producing the new category, started influencing buying habits in the past two years. Today the beginnings of a new wave of 19-seat airliners is starting to similarly influence design decisions.

This return to once-traditional airframe sizes will have its strongest showing since the new-generation revolution started seven years ago when the Paris air show begins later this month.

For companies investing in the latest incarnations of over-50-seat turboprop airliners, Paris will be the place where they hope to break a two-year sales stagnation. For the companies starting new 19-seat programs, Paris is where they plan to launch major sales assaults in hopes of building order books, launching new programs, or both.

New 19-seaters emerge

With the expiration of U.S. Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 41 in 1991, the manufacturers of 15-19 seat transports have to take action. Without the advent of SFAR 41, most of the 19 seaters now in use by regional and commuter airlines would be financially dragging their builders down much like turboprop, business-class aircraft.

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wrote SFAR 41 to give small airlines something affordable and available to use in revenue service. …

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