Bombardier plans to cut back Q400 production

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Bombardier has opted to reduce Q400 production at the end of the year as the Canadian airframer waits for sales campaigns to materialise.

Noting that the company has a "healthy pipeline of opportunities in front of us", Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey said that roughly 10 prospective Q400 customers are moving their decisions to the right. "But they are not coming out of the market."

Hachey said that there are open positions on the production line at the end of the year, and the company is trimming output rather than opting to build white-tail aircraft.

In a filing with Canadian regulators Bombardier said its current production backlog for the Q400 was 11 months. But its target production range for the 70- to 80-seat turboprop is 18-21 months.

Hachey declined to specify what the Q400 monthly production rates will be after the cut, but stressed that the adjustment would not affect the planned 90 deliveries Bombardier Commercial Aircraft has previously forecasted for 2011. He said while it is not ideal to have production rate fluctuations, Bombardier is constructing the Q400 rate adjustment to bounce back quickly once orders are confirmed.

Roughly 100 employees are being affected by the Q400 production cuts, and Hachey said Bombardier is analysing how to reuse those staff or shift them to other programmes. Bombardier's Global 5000 and 6000 business jets and the Q400 are all manufactured in Toronto.

Bombardier is "faced with the same decision" on the CRJ700/900/1000 programmes in evaluating production cuts, said Hachey.

The airframer needs to book a couple of significant CRJ orders for 2011 to hold CRJ production rates constant, Hachey said, and stressed there are more than enough potential orders in the pipeline to make that happen.

Bombardier's calculations show a roughly 18-month CRJ production backlog, with a target range of 18-21 months.

Hachey acknowledged that Bombardier "does need to win a couple of large orders" to sustain CRJ production. The company plans to "give ourselves a quarter on that in terms of lead time".