The first time I flew a short regional route, walked through the jetway, and got into what I could only describe as a mini-jet. I couldn’t stand up straight, and if I did the plank challenge (2012 nostalgia), I could probably touch the sides. It wasn’t the most comfortable flight and it didn’t help that the unnamed airline I flew (Spirit) operated the high-density version.
But my relationship with the CRJ has changed from discontent to appreciation and respect. This aircraft is used by regional airlines to ferry millions of passengers and is one of the toughest aircraft in operation. Additionally, it’s often the first aircraft that budding first officers of airlines start on. I had the pleasure of being in the right seat of one, and it changed my mind. Hopefully, the information in this article will help paint the CRJ700 in a better light for you as well.
The CRJ (Canadair Regional Jet) 700 is a short-haul, rear-mounted twin-engine, t-tail, regional jetliner produced by Bombardier, which is now a subsidiary of Airbus. The CRJ700 is one of the most popular regional jetliners in operation today. Bombardier produced the CRJ700 for 21 years, starting in 1999, but ended production in 2020 after the CRJ program was sold to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which won’t manufacture any new aircraft but will continue to maintain and support existing units.
Design and Development
The CRJ700 started as the CRJ-X program, from the beginning Bombardier envisioned the CRJ700 as an elongated version of the successful CRJ 200. It had to increase the size of the aircraft as the demand for regional flying was increasing consistently and the competition was following suit. The aircraft is named the CRJ700 because it seats between 70-80 passengers.
The design work officially began in 1994, Bombardier built upon the design of the CRJ 200. The new aircraft was elongated using fuselage plugs, the delta wings were redesigned to produce more lift to offset the increase in weight. High lift devices such as slats were designed into the wing for added performance.
The CRJ700 would have to take off from hot and high airports frequently, so Bombardier opted to fit General Electric CF34-8C5B1 turbofan engines to the aircraft, in the same rear-fuselage mounted configuration as the CRJ 200. Each engine produced 13,790 lbf (61.3 kN), more than enough for the typical operations of the aircraft. The CRJ700 is equipped with full authority digital engine controls and is the first aircraft in the series to have the feature.
The CRJ700 is so heavily redesigned, that it only maintains 15 percent commonality with the model it was based on – CRJ 200. The project was greenlit with a development budget of $200 million in 1995. The development took three years and the CRJ700 was officially launched in 1997, but the first flight would be delayed for two years after which the certification process would begin. The finished product was ready to enter service in 2001 and cost Bombardier a total of $440 million.
After seven years in service, Bombardier expanded the NextGen program to the CRJ700. The changes were mainly cosmetic. The doorways were made bigger, the cabin was revamped with bigger windows and new LED mood lighting, and seats were also made more comfortable, though the width and pitch remained the same. The performance changes included slight aerodynamic changes to the aircraft and included new wingtips that increased fuel efficiency by 5.5 percent.
Introduction to Service and Success
The Bombardier CRJ700 was introduced into service in 2001 with its launch partner Brit Air, a French regional airline. Since then Bombardier has sold 330 units, mainly to regional airlines in the United States.
Notable users of the aircraft are Skywest Airlines and Endeavor Air, who operate the aircraft for the regional branches of legacy carriers such as Delta and United. Skywest is the largest operator of the CRJ700 and has 104 aircraft in service.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) ceased production of the CRJ aircraft after they acquired the program because the CRJ is a direct competitor to their Space Jet program. But why pay an absurd amount of money to buy a program to cancel it? MHI was simply after the established CRJ maintenance network.
The final CRJ aircraft ever produced was a CRJ 900, which rolled off the production line on the 21st of February, 2021.
Bombardier CRJ700 Specifications
|Parameter||Original||Extended Range||Long Range|
|Length||106 ft 1 in (32.30 m)|
|Height||24 ft 10 in( 7.60 m)|
|Wingspan||76 ft 3 in (23.20 m)|
|Wing Area||760 ft² (70.6 m²)|
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.90 m)|
|Width||8 ft 10 in( 2.55 m)|
|Aisle Width||0.40 m|
|Seat Width||0.44 m|
|Economy Seat Pitch||78 cm|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight||72,752 lbs (33,000 kg)||74,979 lbs (34,010 kg)||77,007 lbs (34,930 kg)|
|Maximum Landing Weight||66,998 lbs (30,390 kg)||67,593 lbs (30,660 kg)|
|Operating Empty Weight||43,497 lbs(19,730 kg)|
|Maximum Zero Fuel||62,3025lbs (28,260 kg)||63,493 lbs (28,800 kg)|
|Maximum Payload||18,805 lbs (8,530 kg)||19,995 lbs (9,070 kg)|
|Maximum Range||1,730 nm (3200 km)||1,946 nm (3,604 km)||2,185 nm (4,048 km)|
|Standard Cruise||Mach 0.78 (447 kts, 823 kmph)|
|Maximum Operating Mach Number (Mmo)||Mach 0.852 (473 kts, 876 kmph)|
|Fuel Economy||N/A||0.68 nm/gal (0.33 km/l)|
|Takeoff Distance (SL, ISA, MTOW)||5,250 ft (1,600 m)||5,512 ft (1,680 m)||6,070 ft (1,850 m)|
|Landing Distance (SL, ISA, MLW)||5,052 ft (1,540 m)||5,118 ft (1,560 m)|
|Service Ceiling||41,000 ft (12,500 m)|
|Rate of Climb||3,500 fpm (17.78 m/s)|
|Rated Takeoff Thrust (each)||13,790 lbf (61.3 kN)|
|Rated Continous Thrust (each)||12,670 lbf (56.4 kN)|
|Wake Turbulence Catergory||M|
|Margin to Chapter||6.3 EPNdB|
|Emissions (Margins to CAEP4)|
|Nitrogen Oxides||32.4 %|
|Passengers||68 – 78|
|Flight Deck||Rockwell Collins ProLine 4|
|Engine(s)||General Electric CF34-8C5|
|Auxiliary Power Unit||Honeywell RE220|
|Landing Gear||Menasco Aerospace|
|Hydraulics System||Park and Abex|
Bombardier CRJ700 Performance
The purpose of smaller jetliners like the CRJ700 is to ferry passengers to smaller airports away from large hubs. Some of these smaller airports aren’t the easiest to fly in and out of, especially the ones at higher altitudes. The CRJ700 has relatively short takeoff and landing distances which allow it to service these hard-to-reach airports.
The CRJ700 also produces little noise pollution because of the small engines and frame of the aircraft itself. This is an advantage it has over larger jets that are more disruptive. The smaller engines of the aircraft also make it much more fuel efficient than larger shart-haul jets like the Boeing 737-600. They can also propel the aircraft to a respectable maximum speed of Mach 0.852 (473 kts, 876 kmph).
The General Electric CF34-8C5 produces a maximum thrust of 13,790 lbf (61.3 kN). The level of power is important, because the CRJ700 is a t-tail aircraft, and it is susceptible to deep/super stalls. The only way to recover from these stalls is through the application of power, therefore the engines on the aircraft have to be able to pull the aircraft out of a stall even at MTOW.
Bombardier CRJ700 Maintenance Schedule
Regional operations take a heavy toll on aircraft. Quick turnaround operations and short-haul routes mean the CRJ700 is taking off and landing almost twice as much as a medium-haul aircraft. Therefore, aircraft used for regional operations have to be built to withstand a lot of punishment and the CRJ is no different.
These regional aircraft are not only built tough but they are built to keep maintenance costs down. In addition, the maintenance and heavy maintenance intervals on the CRJ 700 are designed to minimize downtime. When the aircraft was first launched, the aircraft specifications called for the A Check to be completed every 400 hours, and the C Check to be completed every 4,500 hours.
In 2011, Bombardier began a program to extend the intervals between checks and received certification from the FAA to do so. The new intervals for A Checks and C Checks were 650 and 6,500 hours, respectively. In 2018, the intervals were extended once more, to 800 and 8,500 hours for A Checks and C Checks, respectively. Increasing the maintenance intervals for an aircraft is a testament to how tough an aircraft is, and the CRJ has accomplished this twice.
Bombardier CRJ700 Configuration Options
The CRJ700 is available for purchase in three standard seating configurations, and each configuration is given a separate designation.
The aircraft with the least number of seats is the original CRJ700 which comes with 68 seats, this is followed by the CRJ 701 has two additional seats, bringing the total to 70. The CRJ 702 has seven more seats added to the cabin and has the largest capacity, seating 78 passengers.
The base configuration CRJ700 has two cabin areas, business class (though most regionals don’t call it that), and economy. There are eight business class seats at a pitch of 37 in (93.98 cm), the rest are economy seats, however, 28 of these have a larger 34 in (86.36 cm) pitch. This model has a four-cart galley and a baggage area volume of 689.9 ft³ (19.52 m³)
The CRJ 701 has 70 economy seats at a pitch of 31 in (78.74 cm) and has a total baggage capacity of 812.70 ft³ (23.0. m³). This version of the CRJ also has a five-cart galley to serve passengers and a single lavatory.
The numbers for the 78 seaters are similar, however, to make extra space for the additional seats, 66 of the 78 seats have a pitch of 31 in (78.84 cm) while the remaining 12 have a pitch of 30 in (76.20 cm). The baggage area has been made smaller by 139.56 ft³ (3.95 m³) to maximize cabin space, giving it a total volume of only 673.14 ft³ (19.06 m³).
Airlines are free to customize the cabins of the CRJ700 as they see fit, but since most of the operators are budget airlines, money isn’t spent customizing the cabin. Customers who purchase the CRJ700 as a business jet can modify the aircraft as much as they need, the sky’s the limit.
Bombardier CRJ700 Price
When Bombardier released the CRJ700 in 2001, it was listed at a starting price of $24 million. In 2012, the list price of the CRJ 700 rose to $35-37 million. This increase is attributed to the introduction of the CRJ700 NextGen. Five years later, the price increased to $41.4 million which is almost double the introductory price, which is mainly because of inflation and higher material costs.
However, Airlines don’t buy aircraft that the list price. Launch partners receive discounts of up to 50 percent, while other airlines that buy in bulk can receive discounts upwards of 25 percent. The people who pay list prices are often customers who want to purchase the aircraft for private use.
The CRJ700 is no longer being produced, but well-used examples are available on the second-hand market. However, the aircraft that are used by regionals often take a beating and rack up hours quickly, which brings the price down rapidly.
Bombardier CRJ700 Operation Costs
Fixed costs remain the same regardless of if the aircraft is utilized or not, the amount an airline pays as a fixed cost doesn’t change if the aircraft flies 2 hours or 20,000 hours. This is why airlines try to minimize downtime, the longer the aircraft isn’t utilized, the more the fixed costs eat into the revenue.
The total fixed costs for a CRJ700 per annum are roughly $758,100.
The table below shows a rough estimate of a fixed cost for a CRJ700.
|Fixed Cost||Annual Expenditure ($)|
Most airlines rarely buy an aircraft outright, because it is such a significant fixed cost. Rather the aircraft are leased to allow the cost to be spread out over a period to “cushion” the cost. The average aircraft lease is around 10 years. If a CRJ700 were purchased at a list price of $40 million, then the airline would have to pay a monthly lease cost of 33,300 to pay off the capital.
Captains in regional airlines are compensated well to keep them from going to major airlines. This is why there is a significant disparity in the salary of a first officer and a captain.
A captain of a CRJ700 for China Express Airlines can make up to $235,000 a year, which includes possible overtime. The annual base pay is $180,000, and the pilot is expected to fly around 900 hours. After 900, each hour is paid time-and-a-half at a rate of $150, and if 950 hours is reached then a $7,500 bonus will be paid. Safety and loyalty bonuses as well as travel expenses are included as well.
Regional airlines in the United States don’t pay as much, and an experienced Captain can expect to make an average of $169,000. First officers can expect to make an average of $119,500.
Crew Training Costs
Pilots who fly in the left seat of a CRJ700 at a regional airline often start with no turbine hours and without a type rating for the aircraft and have to be trained from scratch, and this is costly. Training a first officer can cost up to $30,000, some airlines deduct this amount from the salary of a pilot over the contract period.
While a type rating isn’t a recurring cost, there are plenty of other training costs that are. Proficiency and currency checks that pilots have to undergo periodically (usually biennially) to ensure that they can operate the aircraft safely and efficiently. Other checks that can be lumped under this category are medical checks and other more infrequent checks. Since these costs don’t neatly get charged per calendar year, a good estimate would be $10,000.
There are two main parking methods available for aircraft, They can either be chocked and secured on the ramp or be parked inside a hangar.
Most jetliners are parked on the ramp in between flights because it’s the most cost-effective method, and since these aircraft spend very little time on the ground, purchasing expensive hangar space is not necessary. However, it does have its limitations. An aircraft parked on the ramp is susceptible to damage from adverse weather conditions and at a higher risk of damage from collisions with ground vehicles and other aircraft.
A hangar drastically reduces the probability of an aircraft being damaged, especially by adverse weather conditions such as hail. Aircraft are usually evacuated ahead of time, however, if it isn’t, the repairs can cost a significant amount. Airliners are often only stored in hangars during heavy maintenance because the aircraft is away from foreign debris and the working conditions for the technicians are better.
The average cost per hour of parking varies from airport to airport, the most congested an airport is, the higher the premium on parking space. Most major airlines build their own hangars and allow contracted regional airlines to utilize them. Therefore it is tough to get an estimate for the cost of the parking space for a single aircraft per annum. However, for a private operator, the average hangar cost per annum for a CRJ700 is $30,000.
In normal circumstances, an aircraft is required to have at least liability insurance, which protects third parties and cargo from damages caused as a result of the aircraft’s operation. If complete coverage is needed, hull insurance can be added. Hull insurance protects the aircraft from damages and in instances where an aircraft is totaled, the owner will be awarded the amount the aircraft was valued at. This insurance setup is usually attributed to private and smaller commercial operations.
Airlines are held to a completely different standard. There are separate national laws that are based on multiple ICAO conventions regarding damages that an airline has to abide by. Insurance cost for an airline is calculated according to the fleet of an airline, the overall competency of the operation, locations the airlines fly to, etc.
These costs change with the usage of the aircraft and are calculated on an hourly basis. The per-hour cost for a CRJ700 is roughly $1,950.
Fuel is the single largest cost any aircraft will incur, and this is true for any operation. It is why airlines and manufacturers are obsessed with increasing fuel efficiency. Heavy jetliners burn tonnes of fuel per hour, so smaller jets like the CRJ700 are preferred over shorter variants of larger jetliners like the B737-600.
The CRJ700’s average fuel burn per hour is 444 gals/hr (1,680 l/hr) which has a mass of 1,344 kg. This value is a rough estimate because the fuel burn of any aircraft depends on the altitude it is operating at, the pressure and temperature of the day, and the climb performance of the aircraft.
As of 19th September 2022, the price of a gallon of Jet-A1 is $3.38, which brings the hourly fuel cost of a CRJ700 to $1,500 per hour. Which is a significant cost saving to competitors like the B737-600 which burns twice as much fuel.
Maintenance is the second most costly affair in an airline operation. It is two-pronged because when maintenance is performed on an aircraft, there is an additional unrealized loss of the aircraft not flying. Even though this is not apparent on the balance sheet, it’s very real and it is the reason why airlines are always looking for aircraft that are easier and cheaper to maintain all while requiring less maintenance. The CRJ meets the criteria we just spoke about and it can take quite the beating, which is why it’s successful.
As of 2018, the CRJ700 requires A checks every 800 hours, and C checks every 8,500 hours. Which drastically reduces maintenance costs. The average maintenance cost per block hour in a CRJ700 is $450.
These operating costs are trip-related costs, such as food and beverage costs, landing, navigation, and ground handling fees. In addition, if there is an overnight stay, the crew hotel, per diem, and other expenses have to be added to under operating costs. These costs differ per trip and the number of passengers ferried during that trip, which makes getting an accurate estimate difficult.
Bombardier CRJ700 Variants
There are currently three major variants and four sub-variants of the CRJ-700. The main variants include the Original, Extended Range, and Longe Range.
The main variants have significant performance differences, and though there is a difference in performance between the sub-variants it’s simply attributed to the increase in weight because of the increase in passengers and payload.
The Extended Range (ER) is the first and original variant of the CRJ700. The name is quite self-explanatory, this new variant was able to fly a total of 1,730 nm (3200 km), an increase of 300 nm (555.6 km) from the original’s range of 1,430 nm (2,650 km).
The aircraft also has a higher gross weight of 74,979 lbs (34,010 kg), up 2,227 lbs from the standard 72,752 lbs (33,000 kg). This increase was attributed to the additional amount of fuel the aircraft could carry. These were the extent of changes made for the Extended Range.
The CRJ700 Long Range (LR) was a significant performance upgrade from both the base model and the extended range model. The Long-range model has several upgrades, mainly in load-carrying capabilities. This model has an increased maximum takeoff weight, maximum landing weight, payload, fuel capacity, and most importantly, range.
The increase in range of the LR is 2,185 nm (4,048 km) which is an increase of 240 nm (444 km) over the ER model.
Embraer 170 Series
The Embraer E170 and E170 are CRJ700’s main competitors. The former has a maximum capacity of 72 seats and a maximum range of 2,150 nm (3,982 km), while the latter can seat a maximum of 88 and has a maximum range of 2,540 nm (4,074 km). The E-series is equally, if not more popular than the CRJ series.
The Embraer made sure to match almost every model Bombardier made with similar, if not better specifications. Now that the CRJ is no longer in production, the E-Jet will take over the market share that the two have been fighting over for years.
Sukhoi Superjet 100
This regional jetliner is manufactured by Russia’s state-owned enterprise. The aircraft has only sold a total of 302 units since its launch in 2011, and has very little traction with the international community, with purchases mainly being restricted to neighboring states.
The SSJ100’s typical seating capacity is 87, this increases to a total of 108 when the high-density configuration is selected. The aircraft is available in two variants, a standard variant with a range of 1,645 nm (3,048 km) and a long-range variant with a maximum range of 2,472 nm (4,578 km).
The Mitsubishi SpaceJet is the reason that the CRJ program no longer exists. Mitsubishi promptly discontinued production of the aircraft after purchasing it because the CRJ competed directly with the sales of the SpaceJet. The aircraft is supposed to have roughly the same amount of seats as the CRJ700 but be more advanced and fuel efficient.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, MHI laid off hundreds of employees and significantly reduced the budget of the SpaceJet program, which has in effect put it on an indefinite hiatus.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Bombardier CRJ700:
Question: Why did Mitsubishi buy the CRJ program?
Answer: The CRJ program was acquired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2020, and the company stopped production of the aircraft because it was a direct competitor to its own regional jet. The program was purchased for the CRJs maintenance network.
Question: What is the maximum range of the CRJ700?
Answer: The CRJ700 comes in three variants, each with its own maximum range. The standard, extended range, and long-range variants each have a range of 1,730 nm (3200 km), 1,946 nm (3,604 km), and 2,185 nm (4,048 km), respectively.
Question: Have there been many upgrades to the CRJ700?
Answer: The CRJ700 was upgraded once by Bombardier with the Next Generation program which upgraded the interior and increased fuel economy slightly. Older CRJ700s can also be retrofitted with the most recent engine on offer, improving performance.
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