Small jet manufacturers are planning to invest heavily in their platforms and increase the size of current aircraft models, according to a panel discussion at the ISTAT Americas 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla.

Superjet International VP-business development John Buckley revealed plans to stretch the 100-seat Sukhoi SuperJet. “As we move forward, we will be stretching the aircraft to 120 to 130 seats and begin to have a family of aircraft,” he said.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. EVP-Sales and Marketing Masao Yamagami said future plans for the 70- to 90-seat MRJ include a 100-seat model.

Bombardier Aerospace, which rolled out the first CSeries flight test vehicle March 7 at its Montreal Mirabel facility, announced an extended variant of the CS300. SVP-Commercial Chet Fuller outlined plans to increase the capacity of the new CSeries aircraft to accommodate up to 160 seats.

Embraer chief commercial officer John Slattery similarly detailed plans to invest heavily in the company’s E-Jet platform over the next few years to improve the aircraft’s noise, fuel burn, avionics and interior. It will then add a new wing, Pratt & Whitney GTF engine and Honeywell Primus Epic 2 cockpit avionics for a second generation E-Jet, which is expected to be larger than current models.

Embraer and Bombardier agreed there was a market for about 7,000 70- to 120-seat aircraft over the next 20 years; however, all panel members believed there was little to no case for a new 50-seat aircraft because it would not be economical.

According to Buckley, small jets at the higher seat range will be required in emerging markets that are not confined by US-centric scope clauses. Panel members see growth opportunities in China, but view infrastructure and pilot shortages as major constraints.

Slattery stressed that for regional jets, trip costs are much more important than seat mile costs, which are weighted heavily in the Airbus and Boeing single-aisle markets, but on certain routes, narrowbodies cannot compete. “There are some routes where you cannot operate an A319/A320 and get the yields. That’s where we operate, that’s where the regional jet is yield-generating,” he said.

Bombardier’s Fuller agreed. “A 180-seater on a Milwaukee to Tulsa route just is not going to happen,” he said.