Bombardier targets untapped Russian market, receives Q400 type approval

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Bombardier's focus on selling commercial turboprops aircraft in Russia is increasing after securing aircraft type approval for the Q400.

Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee awarded a type certificate today for the Q400 in Moscow, with Bombardier executives joined by Canadian ambassador to Russia John Sloan and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast.

Though Russian certification of a type that entered commercial service 12 years ago is largely a formality, for Bombardier the event is a key milestone in its marketing strategy.

Bombardier notes the 50-seat CRJ100/200 received type approval in Russia in 2006, and has since seen demand increase "significantly" in Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan.

For the past year, Bombardier has been seeking to tap non-traditional markets for its commercial aircraft products after a dismal sales year in 2010, when only seven Q400s were ordered worldwide.

Bombardier has never sold a new Dash-8-series turboprop, such as the Q200, Q300 or Q400, to a Russian operator, although SAT Airlines has acquired used Q200s and Q300s.

But the company's long-term forecast anticipates this will change. Bombardier projects that Russian and former Soviet bloc airlines will buy 460 70-seat airlines over the next 18 years, or one-fifth of all European demand. Airlines in Russia and former Soviet states already currently operate 800 commercial aircraft in the 20- to 149-seat category.

For these orders, Bombardier will face competition from a familiar rival -- the ATR 72, which also has entered service in the Russian market with UTair Aviation.

But Bombardier also can expect a competitive challenge from domestic manufacturers. Antonov continues to build An-140s and Ilyushin has introduced the Il-114 in the same market sector, although both regional turboprops have struggled to win new orders.