MIAMI – Yesterday, the final Bombardier CRJ (Canadair Regional Jet) to be produced, a CRJ-900, finished production and was delivered to SkyWest Airlines (OO) to be operated on behalf of Delta Air Lines (DL). 

The end of production for the CRJ series marks the end of an era for the family of popular regional jets. The aircraft, a CRJ-900LR delivered with registration N840SK, will be operated by OO on behalf of DL under the Delta Connections brand. 

SkyWest Airlines, one of the primary users of CRJ series aircraft, operates 371 of the jets on contract for American Airlines (AA), DL, and United Airlines (UA) as American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express respectively. 

Despite production ending for the aircraft, the CRJ remains a popular choice for short-haul and feeder operations primarily in the United States, Western Europe, and China. According to the CRJ website, over 120 airlines operate over 1,900 of the type in 90 countries. 

United Express (GoJet) Bombardier CRJ-550. | Photo: Miles Aronovitz/Airways

The CRJ Program

The CRJ program as a whole can be thought of as a success due to the overwhelming orders fulfilled since the aircraft type’s first flight in 1991. 

Although the manufacturer tried to revive its order book in 2019 through the addition of the revised CRJ700, the CRJ550, only United Airlines ordered the type. 

The CRJ550 was introduced in 2019 as an option for legacy carriers to be able to fit a three seat configuration into a smaller jet with all the trimmings of a next generation aircraft, including spacious overhead bins, mood lighting among other features. 

In an ironic piece of history, yesterday also marked the 23rd anniversary of the first Embraer E145 to be delivered to Envoy Air (MQ), a direct competitor to the CRJ series. 

Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

The Regional Jet Revolution

As with other aspects of the aircraft manufacturing industry, the market for these jets has been extremely competitive. It was consolidated when Bombardier sold the entire CRJ program to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in June of last year. 

Mitsubishi, possibly best known in the aviation industry for their doomed SpaceJet aircraft, will continue the CRJ program’s maintenance and spare parts production. 

The SpaceJet, originally meant to be a competitor to the CRJ and ERJ types, has failed to gain momentum due to significant setbacks in its production timeline, furthered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After seven years of delays, only a recorded 167 orders remain. A large majority of those belong to OO. The only direct competitor to the CRJ series is now the Embraer EJet family, comprising the E170, E175, E190, and E195. 

Embraer has continued production of the aircraft type and has introduced E175-E2, E190-E2, and E195-E2 aircraft as replacements for its older counterparts. The program has struggled to gain orders for the next-generation aircraft, in part due to the rise of the Airbus A220. 

Photo: Luke Ayers/Airways

A Changing Industry

In the United States, we have seen a shift from the traditional hub and spoke route networks of legacy carriers to the newer style point to point networks of low cost carriers. 

Rather than strictly transferring passengers from airline hubs, low cost carriers have broken the market’s reliance on legacy carriers to operate flights to smaller destinations. 

In doing this, they have made profitable airlines using larger aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 series instead of smaller regional jets like the CRJ series. 

In an effort to adapt to this change, DL has taken a similar approach in ordering Airbus A220s for their mainline to compete on point-to-point routes. 

It remains to be seen how the short haul aircraft manufacturing market will change after the recent consolidation.

Featured Photo: Mateo Skinner/Airways