AVAir Inc., a Raleigh, N.C., airline that operated the American Eagle commuter service to Washington's three major airports, canceled all of its flights yesterday and filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, according to officials of American Airlines, for whom AVAir had operated the commuter service under a marketing agreement.

AVAir operated about 200 American Eagle commuter flights a day, including 80 flights a day at National, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International airports. It served primarily as a regional carrier feeding American Airlines' hub at Raleigh-Durham Airport, officials said.

Airline experts said that the airline's 19 turboprops typically fly about half full, so the cancellations would have affected about 750 passengers flying in and out of the three Washington area airports yesterday.

Piedmont Airlines and Continental Express agreed to accept the American Eagle tickets, United Press International reported.

AVAir was one of nine companies around the nation providing feeder service to American Airlines under the American Eagle name, according to a marketing agreement with the larger carrier.

American Airlines plans to create a new subsidiary to provide commuter service as soon as possible to the East Coast locations AVAir served, said American spokesman Steve McGregor.

American could not say yesterday when it will begin the new service because it has to obtain aircraft and personnel, McGregor said. American owned about 10 of AVAir's 28 airplanes, but those aircraft could be tied up for months in bankruptcy court proceedings, he said.

AVAir filed its bankruptcy petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Lynchburg, according to American Airlines spokesman Jim Brown.

Telephones were not being answered yesterday at AVAir's headquarters.

Airline industry experts said AVAir, which is privately owned, has suffered financial problems recently.

"They ran out of money to meet their payroll," said one aviation source.

Another source said AVAir's owners had been trying to sell the company to American Airlines. McGregor said he could not comment.

American Airlines reservation agents were notified that AVAir had canceled all flights through Sunday for "operational reasons," one agent said. Reservations were being accepted for Monday and beyond, she said.