The latest CS100 order, from Swiss-based PrivatAir, pushes Bombardier "almost half way" to its target of 20-30 customers by entry into service, the level at which lessors will begin seriously considering the type, according to Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey.

Speaking at the Bahrain air show, where Bombardier exhibited a cabin and cockpit mock-up of its new narrowbody, Hachey said there were "several prospects" for the airliner in the Middle East, despite Gulf Air's apparent change of heart after it was widely expected to announce a CSeries order at the event.

PrivatAir on 19 January placed an order for five CS100s, with five options. Hachey said the decision by the carrier, which operates business-only flights on behalf of airlines, to opt for the CS100 in all-business configuration bolstered the type's image as a "versatile" aircraft. "We designed this airplane to have a lot of flexibility, able to cope with short runways and high elevations, so for us to be able to show its versatility in this way is vital," he said.

"An important part of our strategy has been to look at the geography, the numbers and the variants with this aircraft. We want the plane to be a liquid asset, so it was important to get to the point where lessors feel there is a market for this globally."

A corporate jet version of the CSeries remains "very much in the realms of possibility", but Bombardier's need to focus its engineering resources on a number of current programmes - including the Learjet 85 and new Global business jets - meant any launch would be "a bit later on the horizon", said Hachey.

Although Bombardier's regional aircraft market has struggled in the past year as airlines its traditional markets of Europe and North America have retrenched, Hachey said a new focus on emerging markets with the CRJ family and Q400 turboprop meant he was "very optimistic about 2012". He added: "We have decentralised our sales and we are going after emerging markets. We did not spend enough energy on these in the past. You will see us becoming much more aggressive there."

In the business aviation sector, Hachey said the previous year had been "a tale of two stories", with its larger Challenger and particularly the Global ranges doing well and the Learjet family "not getting worse but certainly not getting much better". In the smaller cabin categories, troubled competitors were "doing what they can to move metal" and an oversupply of used aircraft was also depressing new orders, he said.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news