Bombardier has launched the Continental "super mid-size" business jet, with first deliveries planned for the end of 2002. The Canadian company says it has a substantial backlog of letters of intent for the $14.25 million aircraft, which it will begin converting to firm orders.

Development will cost C$500 ($340 million), says Continental product director Claude Chidiac, of which Bombardier will provide half. The rest will be absorbed by risk-sharing partners. The Canadian company will assemble the Continental at Learjet in Wichita, Kansas, and complete the aircraft at its Tucson, Arizona, centre.

Bombardier will build the forward fuselage at Canadair in Montreal and the centre fuselage at Shorts in Northern Ireland. The aft fuselage and vertical and horizontal stabilisers will be produced by AIDC of Taiwan and the wing by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Hawker de Havilland of Australia will supply the tailcone and Fischer of Austria the belly fairing.

Preferred partners were invited to participate in a nine-month joint concept development phase, completed last month, then to bid for risk-sharing stakes in the aircraft programme.

The selected suppliers are now working with Bombardier on a joint definition phase to be completed in November.

The first flight is scheduled for June 2001, and five test aircraft will be built. Joint Canadian, European and US certification is planned for September 2002 and the first "green" delivery for December that year. The nearest competitor, Raytheon's super mid-size Hawker Horizon, is scheduled to fly late this year and enter service in the second quarter of 2001.

The programme is based on a "conservative" 300 aircraft, or 30% of the forecast mid-size market, Chidiac says, and the company plans to produce 58 a year. Of the letters of intent, 70% are from North American customers and 30% from Europe.

Source: Flight International