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Turboprops & regional jets: lowering aircraft orders could suggest a fading regional airline model

The future looks hazy for turboprops and regional jets. Recent headlines highlight the challenges faced by the regional aircraft manufacturers Bombardier and Embraer.

A Dec-2017 CAPA report on Europe's aircraft fleet noted a disproportionately low number of orders for these types. Further analysis of data from the CAPA Fleet Database confirms that this is not confined to Europe.

For turboprops, the ratio of aircraft orders to aircraft in service is low in all regions, particularly in Europe, North America, Africa and Latin America. For regional jets, this ratio is reasonably high in Asia Pacific and Middle East, but low in Africa, Latin America and Europe. Even in North America, comfortably the leading region for regional jets in service, orders are low by comparison.

Order cycles are driven by a complex range of factors, including technological change, aircraft pricing and airline profitability, oil prices, aircraft ages and developments in airline business models. The ratio of aircraft orders to aircraft in service may not be a definitive guide to the future.

Nevertheless, this analysis suggests that the popularity of turboprops and regional jets compared with other aircraft types, particularly narrowbodies, is declining. By extrapolation, the regional airline business model may also be waning.

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