British Aerospace this week said its latest order for RJ85 airliners means its loss-making regional jet business would break even by the end of the year.
Monday’s $620m (£327m) order from Northwest Airlines for 24 RJ85 airliners helps secure jobs at five BAe plants. Northwest, which has already ordered 12 of the 69-seat airliners, becomes the largest RJ customer.
The airliners are derivatives of BAe’s 146 airliner and were marketed by BAe’s Avro subsidiary before its regional jet business became part of the pan-European Aero International (Regional) joint venture.
The RJ85s are assembled at Woodford near Manchester from components built there and at four other BAe sites, Brough in Yorkshire, Chadderton in Manchester, Filton near Bristol and Prestwick in Ayrshire. First delivery of Northwest’s RJ85s was last April.
BAe is now building 18 RJ family jets a year. Preparations to increase this production rate are `under review’, BAe said, but output of 18 a year is the `optimum figure for now’. The Northwest order brings the number of firm sales for the RJ family to 136, of which 89 have been delivered. The backlog of 47 represents two and a half years’ work.