Regional airframers suffer another sluggish quarter

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The regional aircraft manufacturers suffered another slow start this year, with orders flat and a slump in output during the first quarter.

In the first three months of 2010 (Bombardier data for fiscal year quarter one to 30 April), the three Western regional airframers secured a combined 56 net orders, compared with 55 in the same period last year.

Again, it was orders for Bombardier's new CSeries twinjet that provided the bulk of the new sales (40), as demand for existing types remains sluggish. In fact Bombardier did not secure a single incremental CRJ order, while Embraer's small number of E-Jet sales was more than offset by cancellations.

The CSeries order tally propelled total jet net sales to 39, well ahead of the 17 turboprops sold. Bombardier's Q400 was the big turboprop seller, with 15 new orders. ATR secured two orders for its ATR 42 but did not sell any ATR 72s.

Output was split exactly in half between jets and turboprops, with the combined 50 shipments down by a third on the same period last year. Bombardier and Embraer both suffered declines of around 50%. The latter was the biggest single producer, delivering 20 E-Jets and a single ERJ-145 from its Chinese line.

Bombardier's combined output stood at just 16 aircraft, the bulk of which (12) were Q400 turboprops. The airframer should by now have started delivering its new CRJ1000 model, but the schedule has slipped due to a hold-up in the flight-test programme.

The outlook was brighter in Toulouse, where ATR enjoyed a much higher delivery rate than the first quarter last year, with output rising 60% to 13 aircraft.

The low sales were more than offset by the fall in shipments, which means that the combined regional aircraft backlog has risen slightly since the end of 2009, to 640 aircraft. Embraer remains in the driving seat with a 38% share, although the gap with Bombardier is narrowing fast as the Canadian airframer racks up CSeries sales.