The EC has approved a Dutch Government advance of €19.7 million of launch aid for an upgraded version of the Fokker 100 aircraft by NG Aircraft, formerly known as Rekkof (Fokker backwards). The question that must be asked is if there is really a market for an upgraded version of the Fokker 100 that ceased production in 1997 and was a stretch of the F-28 Fellowship that entered service in 1967.
Today’s marketplace is getting crowded in the 100 seat category – with today’s market leader, the Embraer 170-195 series – soon to be challenged by the Sukhoi Superjet, Mitsubishi Regional Jet, AVIC ARJ-21 and Bombardier CSeries, each of which are much more modern designs than the Fokker 100 and will without doubt be superior in both economics and passenger comfort.
In today’s market, a re-engined 1967 design can’t effectively compete with more modern aircraft – or can it? The 737 is that old – with two re-engining and upgrade programs during its history to keep it competitive with the 1988 vintage A320 family. But that’s about to change with the CSeries, which promises a step change in economics for narrow-bodies much like the 787 promises for wide-bodies – a major breakthrough that will leave older competitors economically obsolete.
We don’t believe the 737 can last forever — just look at the pleas to Boeing from Ryanair and Southwest looking for improved economics. But it takes strong innovation to finally put older models to bed permanently. The CSeries, and likely the rumored new larger model from Embarer, will take care of that.
In the meantime, it looks like the Dutch government is throwing good money after bad – a Fokker 100 remake is a bad idea, and doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance against more modern competition without a total new aircraft design. Does Europe need to rejoin the world of regional jet manufacturing? The market spoke otherwise once, and will likely do so again.