SkyWest MRJ deal nearing completion

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SkyWest Inc. is close to turning the memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Aircraft for 100 Mitsubishi Regional Jets into a firm commitment, says SkyWest Inc. president Bradford Rich during an earnings call today.

"We are in fact nearing completion of that definitive agreement," says Rich, who adds that it is also in negotiations with Pratt & Whitney, which will provide the PW1000G engine to power the aircraft.

The carrier first announced that it would be taking 100 MRJ90s at the Farnborough air show on 11 July, and at that point Mitsubishi had said that it expected the order to be firmed up within weeks. However, discussions have been continuing since, and the airframer told Flightglobal in September that it hoped the deal would be completed by the year's end.

SkyWest will receive its first MRJ in 2017 and will take deliveries through 2020. It has the option of converting the MRJ90s into the smaller MRJ70s.

Even with this large potential order in the works, Rich told analysts that the airline has identified a need for further aircraft purchases in the next few years. Bombardier or Embraer are both contenders for addressing this need, he says.

"At the same time, we are also continuing advanced and aggressive discussions with both Bombardier and Embraer," says Rich. "We recognise that we will also need additional equipment, at least we believe we will, as we continue to look for not only growth opportunities in the near-term, but also continued re-fleeting and transitioning of our existing fleet, which will need to take place over the next few years," he says.

Rich characterises the discussions with both airframers as "productive as continuing".

SkyWest and ExpressJet together operate a fleet of 739 aircraft, which includes both Bombardier and Embraer aircraft types.