Bombardier looks to US market for new regional jet sales

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US airlines are poised to order potentially hundreds of new regional jets in the "near future", Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin says today.

Speaking to analysts on a first quarter earnings webcast, Beaudoin says a new wave of orders is likely as American Airlines and American Eagle parent AMR Corp. emerges from bankruptcy later this year.

"We think it's in the near future," he says. "Many airlines are looking to move from 50-seat passenger jets to 70 or 80 [seats], and it depends on where the scope clause will let them."

Beaudoin provided the analysts with a clue to determining the number of aircraft that could soon be replaced by US airlines. He advises them to check how many 50-seat jets are between 12 and 15 years old. This means they are at the end of their original financing deals, he says.

"So then you get an idea of how many will be replaced," Beaudoin adds.

Bombardier is competing against the Embraer 170 and 190 for most regional jet orders in the US market.

Beaudoin also re-affirmed that the 110-130 seat CSeries family remains on track to achieve first flight by the end of the year. While noting that he isn't suggesting there are any significant problems, Beaudoin adds that the CSeries is a "complex project and we have to take it step by step".

The CSeries is scheduled to enter service in 2013 to a launch customer that Bombardier has not disclosed, but has described as a major European network carrier and one of the world's oldest airlines. Both KLM/Air France and British Airways operate comparably sized Airbus A318s, and fit Bombardier's description.