Mixed fortunes for regionals

Farnborough
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There were decidedly mixed sales fortunes for regional manufacturers at the show as ATR and Embraer were bolstered with some high-profile commitments, but Bombardier left without a fresh CSeries order.

A productive show for Embraer saw it net 76 firm orders for its E-Jet family, winning business for its 76- and 90-seat models.

Long-time customer US airline operator Republic Airways bolstered its Embraer 190 backlog with a 24-aircraft order while another long-standing Embraer operator, UK regional Flybe, committed to its first E-175s with a firm order for 35 to drive its expansion into continental Europe. Its commitment could ultimately rise to 140 aircraft when options and purchase rights are included.

The E-190 programme also received attention after Steven Udvar-Hazy's new leasing venture Air Lease signed a letter of intent for 10 of the type.

 ©ATR

Air Lease's interest in the E-190 and its pledge for 10 ATR 72-600 turboprops is a departure from Hazy's strategy at International Lease Finance to predominantly only lease Airbus and Boeing narrow and widebody aircraft.

Deliveries of the E-190s begin next summer and Hazy says the aircraft crosses the boundary from regional to mainline aircraft, so Air Lease will configure its aircraft with 106 seats and market it as if it were a mainline type.

"Our hope is to bring new airlines into the E-Jet family, to introduce the type to new operators," says Hazy. Air Lease anticipates strong demand for the type in most markets, although its main focus will be outside the USA. "We are already in advanced discussions with a number of airlines," he says.

Over at ATR, the European manufacturer was also lifted by a 20-strong order from Brazilian carrier Azul, its first order for turboprops. The Brazilian carrier plans to use the aircraft to open up new and abandoned markets not large enough for is fleet of E-190s/E-195s. The orders helped ATR log sales for 42 new aircraft and 72 options in the first half of this year, slightly ahead of the same stage last year.

ATR also unveiled its new cabin interior design concept, showing off a mock-up of its new Armonia cabin developed with Italian design house Giugiaro for the first time at the show.

Returning ATR chief executive Filippo Bagnato says most regional airline presidents at the air show are seeing signs of recovery, although there is "clearly" regional variation. Overall, he says ATR has had a successful show, increasing its order outlook from around 40 to "over 50" after booking orders for 42 aircraft, plus 72 options, in the first half.

ATR's delivery forecast for the year remains at around 50 and it is sticking with its $1.4 billion projected turnover. Bagnato admits his order outlook is "prudent", but he is already preparing for an eventual upswing. "We will have to prepare ourselves for growth in 18 months to two years. We have 50 aircraft per year this year and next year, then we will go further."

Deliveries of ATR's new -600 series family will begin in July or August next year, but Bagnato will continue to offer the -500 series. "It is not an on/off situation, so if there is a requirement for the -500, I will satisfy it. I don't want to close the door if people are still asking for the -500."

republic airways bombardier cseries 300, bombardier
  © Bombardier

As for a new generation of ATRs, Bagnato says he must be satisfied that there is a case before putting it to the board. "I am performing studies and working together with the engine manufacturers, but I need to convince myself first."

There was also new business during the show for the Superjet 100, including the firming of a 30-strong order from Indonesian carrier Kartika Airlines and preliminary deals covering 42 firm aircraft with new aircraft lessor Pearl Aircraft and Bangkok-based Orient Thai Airlines (see P43).

But anticipation that Bombardier would unveil a significant order for the CSeries during Farnborough has slowly waned the longer the show progressed.

The excitement generated by Republic Airways' 40 firm aircraft order placed in February that arguably triggered Airbus and Boeing to heighten attention on re-engining their narrowbody products has given way to Bombardier going on the defensive over not netting an order at the show.

But commercial aircraft president Gary Scott says no firm commitment by Airbus or Boeing on re-engining could be the reason why some potential customers have not firmed up plans to order the CSeries.

Scott says it is likely some customers are waiting to determine how the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan would perform on the A320 or 737.

Relishing the fact that the scepticism Airbus and Boeing had for the PW1000G has turned into serious consideration of the powerplant Scott says it validates Bombardier's engine choice that the two airframers are looking at the geared turbofan seriously.

He is also confident that customers will realise the benefits of combining a new airframe and engine as Bombardier believes a re-engined existing single-aisle aircraft would offer one-third the benefit of the all new CSeries.

Scott also argues it is not a "black eye" on Bombardier that Farnborough passed without progress in building CSeries orders. The carrier did record a seven-aircraft Q400 order from Qantas.

But Bombardier was the lone manufacturer absent from Hazy's spending spree. His Air Lease venture placed orders with Airbus, ATR, Boeing and Embraer.

Declining to address Bombardier's noticeable absence from Air Lease's shopping list, Bombardier vice-president marketing for commercial aircraft Philippe Poutissou says, with the CSeries entering into service in 2013, the airframer does not have any single-aisle aircraft available "in the near term".

Scott, meanwhile, is reiterating previous comments that Bombardier is in advanced discussions about the CSeries with a handful of customers and he expects the talks to "translate into more orders in the not too distant future".