Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bombardier is offering airlines a stretched 90-seat derivative of the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ). A decision on whether to launch the new model, dubbed CRJ-900, is planned for year-end.

Deliveries of the aircraft, which would be derived from the 70-seat CRJ-700, could begin in 2002, two years earlier than rival 90-seaters from Embraer and Fairchild, says Bombardier Aerospace president Michael Graff.

If the CRJ-900 proceeds, it is likely to delay the BRJ-X programme, which has been refocused around a 100-seater. "We will not necessarily drop the BRJ-X," stresses Bombardier chief executive Robert Brown. "There is still a place for a 100-seat aircraft, but we may decide to delay it slightly."

Bombardier invested C$650 million ($440 million) to develop the 70-seat CRJ-700 from the 50-seat -100/200, which features major changes to the wing, empennage and fuselage/cabin. The CRJ-900 would be a simple stretch of the -700 and is expected to require C$200 million to develop, with a unit price of $28-29 million, says Graff. This compares to the $24-25 million price for the CRJ-700. Negotiations under way with potential risk sharing partners are not restricted to those working on the CRJ-700, he says.

Both the 50-seat CRJ-100/200 and the CRJ-700 are powered by the General Electric CF34, and Graff confirms that discussions are under way with GE on powering the CRJ-900. A more powerful CF34 is under development for the Embraer RJ-190 and Fairchild 928JET 90-seaters.

Bombardier describes the aircraft as "consistent with our strategy", offering commonality, and says that it is "looking at" the 44-seat market targeted by Fairchild and Embraer, but "not seriously".

While the CRJ-900 is seen as an aircraft for regional airlines, the BRJ-X is viewed as a replacement for British Aerospace 146s, Fokker 100s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s.

Source: Flight International