Eastern Air Lines Group president and CEO Edward Wegal
Eastern Air Lines Group, a Miami-based start-up trying to revive the iconic airline brand, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. to order 20 firm MRJ90s plus hold purchase rights for 20 more of the Japanese regional jets.
Eastern Air Lines Group president and CEO Edward Wegal outlined his plans at a Farnborough Airshow press conference to re-launch Eastern-branded scheduled services by the end of next year. The original Eastern operated from 1928 to 1991. The new Eastern plans to start operations providing charter flights with Boeing 737-800 aircraft starting in 2015 following FAA certification, and anticipates beginning to transition to scheduled services by the end of 2015.
It appears the airline would really start to grow in 2019 when deliveries of the MRJs are slated to commence. Wegal foresees MRJs featuring the classic Eastern livery flying from Miami to destinations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. “We want to recapture the early, pioneering years of Eastern,” Wegal said.
Wegal said Eastern’s MRJs will be configured in two classes, most likely with 82 seats. The MRJ is “an excellent aircraft for the routes we want to serve and on the timetable we want to serve them,” he added. Wegal declined to name specific routes Eastern will fly.
The aircraft will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1200G geared turbofan (GTF) engines. Pratt president-commercial engines David Brantner, also speaking at Farnborough, said Pratt is “old enough to remember when amongst our customer rolls we could see Eastern Air Lines. We’re thrilled that once again we’ll see Eastern Air Lines as a Pratt & Whitney customer.”
Wegal said Eastern is not worried about delays to the MRJ program, particularly because it doesn’t need the aircraft for several years. “There’s never been a major aircraft design that hasn’t had some delays in it,” he said. “It’s not something that overly concerns us.”