Bombardier to break ground on CSeries facility in 2009

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Bombardier has cautioned that it may face some order cancellations, but remains bullish about prospects for its Pratt & Whitney GTF geared turbofan-powered CSeries.

The Canadian airframer, which saw its revenues dip slightly to $2.3 billion due to fewer commercial aircraft deliveries in the fiscal third quarter, is pressing forward with plans for a CSeries assembly plant in Mirabel, Quebec.

A contract for design of the facility will be broken up into different pieces. The company will "start with a smaller building where we do the ground and flight testing", says Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey. Construction will begin in the second half of 2009.

Bombardier launched the 110/130-seat aircraft on 13 July with a letter of interest from Lufthansa for up to 60 of the type. Finalisation of the deal is a matter of "tying up the details", Bombardier says. Its prospects for securing CSeries orders from Chinese operators also remain robust, the airframer says.

In recent weeks, reports surfaced that an order freeze on new aircraft had been issued in China until current overcapacity issues are resolved. "I would say that we've reviewed the comments that were reported in the paper and we don't feel that's exactly what was said," says Bombardier president and chief executive Pierre Beaudoin, adding that CSeries conversations with Chinese airlines will not be affected by "short-term situations".

While Bombardier remains confident in bringing the CSeries to market, it has warned that near-term market volatility is likely to cause some cancellations from its current order backlog as well as further delivery deferrals.

For the three months ended 31 October, Bombardier delivered 80 aircraft - 57 business aircraft, 22 commercial and one amphibian - compared with 90 for the same period the previous year.

The commercial figure compares with 33 for the year-earlier quarter and is partially due to some customers requesting deferrals to the fiscal fourth quarter.

Commercial order intake totalled 20 aircraft in the quarter, up from 12 the previous year. On the business aircraft side, a softening in demand resulted in net orders for 48 business aircraft against 124 in the corresponding period.

The aerospace unit's fiscal third quarter earnings before interest and tax rose to $199 million or 8.7% of revenues.