But sluggish orders for turboprops could lead to further cuts in Dash 8 series production

Bombardier is bucking recent industry trends and continuing with plans to expand production of the CRJ family of regional jets. At the same time it is warning that it may have to review further output of the Dash 8 turboprop series and its family of business aircraft in the face of continuing economic uncertainty.

The Canadian manufacturer is looking at raising production of the new CRJ700 to between 60 and 70 aircraft per year over the next 18-24 months at its new Mirabel plant. This compares with around four per month planned for 2002. Bombardier also says its Dorval plant remains on target to deliver 135 CRJ200s by the end of this year, increasing to 165 40-to 50-seat jets in 2002/3 and 174 aircraft the following year.


Revealing its second quarter results last week, Bombardier says its order backlog will allow it to weather the economic slowdown.

Profit for the period ended 31 July increased 13% to C$288 million ($187 million) compared with C$254 million in the same period last year. Revenue rose to C$4.9 billion versus C$3.4 billion, largely due to the addition of a rail car operation purchased from DaimlerChrysler. Aerospace revenue reached C$2.7 billion, up from C$2.1 billion a year earlier.

"We feel our backlog is quite solid. We've taken 200 orders this year and we only make production increases when we receive orders," says Bombardier Aerospace president Robert Brown. Embraer in contrast has shelved plans to raise production of its 35- to 50-seat ERJ-135/140/145 series beyond the current 16 aircraft per month.

The picture is less bright for Bombardier's turboprop and business aircraft product lines. Bombardier recorded orders for just nine Dash 8 Q400s and one Q300 in the second quarter and reported none for the first quarter, compared to a total of 41 orders in 2000. Its turboprop backlog has shrunk from 90 at the end of December to 57 which includes the recent cancellation of UNI Air's order for six.

Bombardier has already adjusted production of the smaller Dash 8 Q200/Q300 to one aircraft per month at its Toronto plant and is now "evaluating where we should go on the Q400", says Brown. The company is currently building around 30 of the 70-seat turboprops per year.

Business jet output remains on a par with last year, with orders for larger jets such as the newly flown Continental so far offsetting the slowdown in the entry-level market. The company has cut production of the smaller Learjet 31 to between 15 and 18 per year.

Source: Flight International