NBAA 09: Bombardier sitting pretty for the upturn

Washington DC
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Bombardier business aircraft president Steven Ridolfo says strategic decisions made during the tough times will put his company on the leading edge when the good times reappear.

"In the long run, the business is going to come back," he says. "Bombardier has significant investments going in place for product and infrastructure to capture what we see as a $250 billion market over the next 10 years."

Key elements of the Montreal-based airframer's strategy include a new composite parts manufacturing centre in Queretero, Mexico, for the new all-composite Learjet 85, a program Bombardier brought completely in-house after the failure of Grob last year.

The 200,000ft2 (18,580m2) facility is to open in March 2010 when work on the first Learjet 85 fuselage will begin. Bombardier plans to have about 2,100 employees in Queretero, with 800 working on the Learjet 85. Planned for entry into service in 2013, the Learjet 85 is "halfway" through its detailed design phase, says Ridolfo.

The Global Vision cockpit rejuvenation of the flagship offering, the Global Express and XRS is also helping. Bombardier achieved first flight for the new Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion-based cockpit in August and has accumulated more than 50h of flight testing. Certification is expected by mid-2011.

"We're flattered that Gulfstream launched a product [the G650] roughly the same size as the Global," says Ridolfo. "We have some things we're thinking of in the longer run, but we're keeping the wraps on for the time being."

Bombardier's optimism is fueled by forecasts of more than 6% annual growth once the economy picks up. "In the long run, we think the market is going to bounce back and be as robust as ever," says Ridolfo.

Four "big factors" are driving the positive outlook, says Ridolfo: globalization of trade; the need for flexible travel because of factories in China, Mexico and other locations; emerging markets in non-traditional locations, and replacement demand in the USA and Europe, a factor Ridolfo says can account for 13,000 aircraft every six or seven years.

"Business aviation is not just a tool for the chief executive," he says. "More and more middle management has to have access to visit factories and suppliers."