Bombardier Says C-Series On Track

November 25, 2010

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Bombardier said on Thursday that production of its new C-Series airliner is on track and that it is pleased with the progress that Pratt & Whitney is making on the plane's engine.

Earlier on Thursday, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said he was concerned with Bombardier's progress on the C-Series 110- to 145-seat regional jets, which are scheduled to enter service in 2013. He said he was particularly concerned about development of the plane's engine.

Philippe Poutissou, Bombardier's vice-president, marketing, commercial aircraft, said that Pratt & Whitney is currently testing the first fully representative C-Series engine at its Florida facilities.

"We are quite pleased with the progress the engine's making," Poutissou said. "Of course it's critical that we have an engine available when we're ready with the airframe."

Al Baker, whose company was close to placing a C-Series order at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK in July, also said that he was unhappy with delays involving Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and told reporters in Paris that he may shift extra business to Airbus.

Bombardier launched its C-Series in 2008. Poutissou said that the company has given itself enough time to get the project right, adding that Boeing had pushed ahead too rapidly with its 787 project.

"If you look at our programme schedule... we actually didn't try and do an ambitious four-year development as they did on the 787 Dreamliner, and are now suffering from the fact that they have not been able to meet that commitment."

DEMAND FOR GLOBAL BUSINESS JET LINE STRONG

Bombardier is the world's biggest business jet maker, and the company said it plans to ramp up production of its top-of-the-line Global business jets in the next two years.

Simon Roberts, vice-president and general manager of the Toronto plant, said that demand for the large, high-end, business jets remained strong throughout the downturn.

"Our backlog is growing and we're actually increasing our production rates in March of next year, and we're also looking at further increases in the following year," he said.

A spokesman for the company later said that Bombardier prefers to give specific production guidance when it releases its quarterly results. Bombardier's third-quarter results are expected next Thursday.

An increase in Global production means more manpower will be needed at the Toronto plant, Roberts said, but he said he didn't know how high the headcount would go. There are currently about 4,000 employees on site.

Last month, the company unveiled plans for the newest additions to the Global family, the Global 7000 and the Global 8000, which will feature the largest cabins and fly the farthest of any business jets on the market.

Roberts said the company plans to invest USD$1.7 billion to USD$1.8 billion on the development and production of the new jets, which feature newly developed wings and a new power plant.

COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT DEMAND SLOWLY REBOUNDING

The company also makes its 70-seat Q-400 turboprop regional airliner at the Toronto site.

Bombardier has had to cut production in recent years on its CRJ regional jets, built near Montreal, but demand for turboprops has been steady, largely due to their fuel economy.

Roberts said that the market for regional commercial airliners was slowly coming back after a rough ride through the recession, when air travel fell drastically and many airlines were forced to cancel aircraft orders.

"Air travel in 2010 so far is back up to the levels of 2008, when demand peaked. So we have lost essentially two years of growth," he said.

He also pointed to third quarter results for North American airlines, which have been positive and which he said should eventually lead to a resurgence in orders.

"We believe (demand) is coming back, but not coming back as quickly as we would have liked."

(Reuters)