As we reported at the end of last week, US-based IFL Group became the launch customer for the CRJ200 passenger-to-freighter conversion program jointly offered by Aeronautical Engineers, Inc (AEI) and Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. This week we take a closer look at the state of the program, and at the CRJ200 Freighter itself.
The big question in the early stage of any conversion program is “Who is going to buy this freighter?” In the case of the CRJ200, the question was particularly relevant because many in the industry felt that a regional jet would simply be unable to compete with the large turboprop freighters currently in the market. Yes, it would be faster, and have greater range, but it would those advantages outweigh the greater cost of acquisition and conversion?
The answer appears to be a clear “Yes.” AEI tells Cargo Facts that it now has 26 firm orders from six customers, and that in fact the cost of putting a CRJ200F on the ramp is less than most people expected. About 1,000 were built, and with many having been replaced by newer types, acquisition cost is now down to around $1.5 million and still falling. Given that the cost of conversion is about $1.8 million, a carrier can put a CRJ200F into service for well under $4 million.
What you get for that $4 million is an eight-pallet twinjet freighter with a large cargo door, a payload of 6.7 tonnes, and a range at max payload of about 750 nm (1,200 nm in the case of the CRJ200 LR).
AEI says it expects to convert about 100 CRJ200s to freighter configuration over the life of the program, with most being operated in charter service and in support of the big integrators. The first unit was inducted for conversion earlier this year, and, as shown in the photo above, work is well under way. AEI says it expects to redeliver the freighter to IFL Group by the end of the third quarter of 2015.
The diagram below shows the main features of the conversion: