Bombardier upbeat on Q400 despite sluggish order in-take

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Bombardier remains optimistic of the viability of its Q400 programme despite logging only seven orders so far in 2011 for the 70-seat turboprop.

This is in stark contrast to the 145 orders recently touted by ATR - Bombardier's Franco-Italian rival in the large turboprop sector. The paltry order intake is also a precipitous drop from the 44 Q400s the Canadian airframer recorded in 2010.

However, even as Bombardier cuts the production output of the Q400, it is still stressing it has a healthy pipeline of order opportunities, with as many as 10 customers lined up.

 

Bombardier's attitude has not changed since it revealed the Q400 production cut in June, or as the backlog for the type dwindled to roughly 44 aircraft.

Striking a bullish tone, Bombardier senior vice-president of sales Chet Fuller cited an "enormous number of Q400 campaigns" and said the current number of active campaigns entailing a request for proposal or an active proposal closing a definitive agreement "is fourfold what it was in January".

Gordon Pratt, director of Q Series programme management, also remains confident of an upturn in Q400 demand.

"We have a good cross section of opportunities that will give us success," he said.

Pratt believes it is only a matter of time before the prospects Bombardier is pursuing come to fruition.

Pratt also cites an evolving interest by lessors in the Q400. ATR recently said lessors represent roughly 20% of the company's sales in 2011.

Danish lessor Nordic Aviation Capital and US company Air Lease Corp. have both recently ordered ATR 72-600s.

Both turboprop manufacturers are offering their aircraft in a dual class, and Pratt said Bombardier's launch customer for the two-class Q400 - United-Continental - expects to place its first aircraft into service by year-end and retrofit 30 aircraft throughout 2012. He said other airlines outside North America have expressed interest in a two-class Q400.

Peter Morris, chief economist of Flightglobal's data and consultancy division Ascend, said one potential reason for the wildly divergent order intakes was the respective focus of each company.

While ATR is free to concentrate solely on selling its turboprop family, including the newly developed ATR 72-600, Bombardier's Q400 has to compete with other products in the airframer's family for attention.

With its CRJ aircraft and, more crucially, the in-development CSeries both failing to sell in large numbers, it could be that Bombardier's marketing efforts are diverted elsewhere,