Saab 340 and 2000
The Saab 340 and 2000 are two-engine turboprop regional airliners seating 30-36 and around 50 passengers respectively. The 340 was the first of a wave of new commuter airliners entering service during the mid-1980's.
The Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab has always been very dependent of military contracts. After World War II it developed the promising 30-seat Scandia propliner, but only 19 were built because of the outbreak of the Korean War and the Swedish government's priority on fighters. But there were also periods of slow military sales and in the late 1970's Saab sought alternative activities in the form of a commuter airliner project. It found a partner in the US manufacturer Fairchild, which had taken over Swaeringen Aircraft, builder of the small Metro airliner and corporate plane.
In 1979 Saab and Fairchild jointly started feasibility studies on a 30 to 40 seat regional airliner and the next year they launched the SF340 programme, based on a 65/35 per cent partnership, with the biggest share for Saab. The Swedes became responsible for the fuselage, fin and final assembly in Linköping. Fairchild produced the wing, engine nacelles and empennage.
The SF340's maiden flight was on 25 January 1983 from Linköping. US and European airworthiness certificates were awarded in June 1984 and on 15 June 1984 the SF340 went into commercial service with the Swiss regional airline Crossair. Other early users were Comair and Air Midwest (both USA), Swedair, Birmingham Executive Airways (UK) and Kendell Airways (Australia).
In spite of a smooth test programme, the SF340 had a difficult operational start. In September 1984, three months after its introduction into service, the type was grounded after Crossair suffered three in-flight engine shutdowns in a short period of time. After modification of the General Electric CT7 engines, the aircraft resumed flying. In November 1984, the 340 was imposed a second grounding of a couple of weeks, again because of engine problems, and late in 1985, the aircraft met problems in icing conditions which also led to grounding.
In November 1985, Fairchild withdrew from the project and production of the US built parts was shifted to Sweden. Saab initially retained the designation 'SF340', but after two years changed this to 'Saab 340A'.
The 340 was the first commuter airliner with a digital flight deck (by Rockwell-Collins) to save weight and maintenance costs. The first 340s were fitted with General Electric CT7-5A engines, soon followed by the more powerful CT7-5A2 and larger propellers. The CT7 was the commercial version of the T700, which powered the Sikorsky S70 military helicopter. Although Saab and Fairchild considered a high wing configuration, they chose for a low wing, because this resulted in less drag and weight, and made the engines easily accessible for maintenance and repair. The 30 to 36 passengers sit in a cabin with a three-abreast layout (2+1). The aircraft was also offered as corporate and cargo plane. Saab built 159 340A models.
In 1989 Saab introduced the improved 340B, with more powerful CT7-9B engines for better performance at hot and high airports, wider horizontal stabilisers and, as an option, an active noise control system in the later built aircraft to suppress cabin noise. The 340B also has a higher takeoff weight and extra range. Two hundred 340Bs were built.
The final version was the 340B Plus, introduced into service in 1994. It incorporated several improvements which were developed for the Saab 2000. It has a redesigned interior and the earlier mentioned noise control system as standard. It also has extended wingtips, which were an option on the 340B too. Saab produced one hundred 340B Plus aircraft.
Some 340s have been delivered for tasks like SAR (maritime search and rescue), surveillance and AEW&C (airborne early warning and control). Production ended in 1999 after building 459 340s. Early in 2015 well over two hundred are still in airline service.
- Saab 2000 -
The Saab 2000 is essentially a stretched version of the 340, seating 50 to 58 passengers. It has a rather high cruise speed of 665 km/h (359 kts) to make it a fast and cheap to operate alternative for regional jets. Saab launched the 2000 in December 1988 and it first flew on 26 March 1992, followed by - delayed - certification in Spring 1994. Crossair took delivery of the first production aircraft on 30 August 1994. The airline became the biggest user of the 2000 by taking delivery of 34 aircraft, including the final production aircraft in April 1999.
The 2000 has a longer fuselage and greater wingspan than the 340. It was the first commercial application of the 4,591 shp Rolls-Royce AE 2100 turboprop engine (then built by Allison), driving slow turning six-bladed Dowty Rotol propellers. The engines are placed further from the fuselage to reduce cabin noise. Saab offered several versions for special duties like flight inspection, airborne early warning, sigint (signal intelligence) and maritime patrol.
The 2000 was not a commercial success. Saab built only 63 aircraft and ended production in 1999. Airlines preferred faster and more comfortable regional jets like the Bombardier CRJ and Embraer ERJ-145. Early in 2015 around 30 2000s are still in airline service.
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