Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bombardier says the downturn in the US economy has not hit its regional aircraft orderbook, but has softened demand at the bottom end of its business aircraft range.

The regional jet market "remains strong" - especially for the 70-seat CRJ700 - says president Bob Brown, while in the 50-seat market he reports "a good level of discussion on potential orders in the USA, Europe and Asia". He adds: "Some customers are just getting into regional jets. We do not see any near-term problems, and we have had no approaches on cancellations."

Demand is also strong at the higher end of the business market, says Brown, with Bombardier's large-cabin Challenger and new super mid-size Continental selling well, and demand for the long-range Global Express strong.

The mid-size Learjet 60 is selling "quite well" and super-light Learjet 45 "outstandingly", but production of the slow-selling Learjet 31A is being cut, with Brown admitting Bombardier needs to look seriously at the light jet sector. It believes the ageing airframe affords limited scope for further development, but is reluctant to offer a new aircraft. Improved competitor aircraft such as the Raytheon Premier I also pose new problems.

Bombardier saw group sales increase 18% to C$16.1 billion ($10.3billion) in the year to 31 January, with its net profit up 30% to over C$979 million. Aerospace accounted for most growth, with sales up 30% to C$10.6 billion thanks to increased deliveries, the company handing over a record 370 aircraft (including 157 regional and 203 business), 78 more than in the previous year. Aerospace profits rose 37% to almost C$904 million, with margins improving to 11.7% from 11.1%. Brown envisages a 15% increase in deliveries during the current fiscal year, with higher production of the CRJ200 and new CRJ700.

Source: Flight International