Convert a regional jet into a business jet

Mark Huber has written a lengthy article for the Business Jet Insider about how easy its getting to obtain relatively new large-cabin jets at near-turboprop prices.  According to Mark, he lives in the upper Midwest of the US where regional airlines are pulling out of small airport markets as fast as the government will let them in the wake of $100-a-barrel oil where even government subsidies can’t make the routes profitable as they are often flown at low and gas-guzzling altitudes. Hence, many of the aircraft are being parked.

According to Mark, there were nearly 400 RJs were in storage in the US and many of them less than 10 years old. Specifically, he noted:

  • 62 BAE 146/Avros.
  • 122 Bombardier CRJ100s, 200s and 900s.
  • 36 Dornier/Fairchild 328Jets.
  • 66 Fokker twinjets.
  • 93 Embraer ERJ 135/145s.

In addition, American Airlines, the latest major US carrier to file for bankruptcy, could be forced to park a couple of hundred more Embraers belonging to its American Eagle regional subsidiary.

File:Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200LR 2006 04 07.jpgHowever, converting a RJ into executive service is apparently a fairly straightforward proposition as it just involves gutting a 50-seat airliner-style interior, replacing it with a more plush VIP layout along with seats for 12 to 20 and then adding auxiliary fuel tanks for 600 gallons or more (generally in the baggage hold) with this entire process taking around six months. Mark did point out that converting a RJ will not mean you will have an aircraft that has business jet performance as they usually can’t fly as high or as fast or have the same range as a similar sized corporate jet.

Nevertheless, you can pick up a 33-seat airline configuration for around $2 million and then convert it for as little as $1.5 million while a lightly used, late-model RJ such as a Bombardier CRJ 100/200 can be bought for $5 million while another $5 million will buy new paint, newer avionics and a high-end interior.

Mark also mentioned five companies in the USA or Canada that can currently convert CRJs and he mentioned that most conversions to date have been for customers in Asia, the Middle East and Russia. Mark also mentioned a few British companies, including design house Design Q which has created a variety of “whiz-bang” interior concepts for executive conversions and Inflite Engineering which will install the designs.

Finally, Mark concluded that airline economics will mean there will be no shortage of parked RJs for years to come and if you are willing to trade a few knots of speed to save millions (that is, if you have a few million to spend in the first place…), a converted RJ may be your best ticket.

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