One of the last operators of the Boeing 717, Hawaiian Airlines will decide in the coming months which will be the replacement for the aircraft that operates short-haul flights between the islands of Hawaii.
The carrier’s executive director, Peter Ingram, told Flight Global that a decision on the 717’s successor will be made “by late this year or early next year”. “We are in the midst of some analysis work,” Ingram added.
Possible candidates to take the place of the 717 are the Airbus A319neo and A220, from Airbus, and the Embraer E195-E2.
The Hawaiian airline currently operates 19 Boeing 717 jets equipped with 128 seats. According to data from Airfleets, the oldest aircraft in the fleet (the “Puaiohi” model with registration N488HA) is 25 years old and the youngest (the “Akiapolaʻau” N495HA) is 19 years old.
In addition to Hawaiian Airlines, another US carrier still flying the 717 is Delta Air Lines, which is the largest operator of the jet with 69 aircraft in the fleet.
Boeing’s twin engine is also used in Australia by QantasLink, which has 16 aircraft and will be decommissioned in 2024.
The 717 is actually the old MD-95 renamed after Boeing purchased McDonnell Douglas in 1997.
Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717s perform an average of 16 daily cycles through five airports in the US archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The company calls these operations an “inter-island route”. On these routes, the jets take off, reach cruising altitude and in a few minutes begin the descent for landing.
These are short flights, lasting between 30 and 50 minutes, in which the jets fly at relatively low altitudes of around 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). Considering Hawaii’s hot, humid and salty environment, Hawaiian’s 717 operating model is quite challenging.
The sequence of short flights reduces the useful life of the engines, according to Jeffsetter. On longer trips, the engines cool down during the cruising phase. Since this doesn’t happen on Hawaiian’s inter-island routes, the turbine cores remain hotter, which isn’t good for their durability.
Therefore, the replacement plane for the 717 in the Hawaiian company’s fleet must be able to face these adverse conditions and still have a higher level of efficiency.