Bombardier is holding discussions with additional customers about potential 70-seat Q400 turboprop deferrals as it works to conclude an agreement with Horizon Air regarding its request to push back Q400 deliveries.

Horizon aims to defer seven Q400 deliveries scheduled for 2010 and a single delivery in 2011.

Today during a discussion of the company's fiscal first quarter earnings of $158 million Bombardier Aerospace president and chief operating officer Guy Hachey said other customers have approached the airframer about Q400 deferrals, but not for a significant number of aircraft.

Bombardier executives last month confirmed a recent ramp-up in Q400 production, but the company does not disclose specific production rates. The current Q400 backlog stands at 102 aircraft.

As Bombardier assesses how the proposed deferrals could affect Q400 production, Hachey says in the near-term the company is focused on selling slots that might become available. He highlights Bombardier has yet to reach a definitive deferral agreement with Horizon.

Bombardier continues to remain bullish about its larger 110/130-seat CSeries family as Hachey says the company has a long list of prospective customers for the aircraft, and negotiations with a handful of those parties have intensified.

Although Hachey says the current weak economic environment has made lessors and operators considering the CSeries skittish, he "wouldn't be surprised" if Bombardier announced one or two more CSeries deals this year.

Hachey also acknowledges it could also take a fair amount of time to finalize agreements as evidenced by the timeline of Lufthansa placing its firm order for 30 CS100s. Bombardier announced a letter of interest with Lufthansa for the CSeries at the July 2008 Farnborough airshow; however, a firm commitment was not declared until March of this year.

Mongolian carrier Eznis in January became another potential CSeries customer after the companies disclosed a letter of interest for seven aircraft.

Canadian flag carrier Air Canada and SAS have also said they're examining the CSeries as a potential short-haul fleet replacement since it will debut before Airbus and Boeing introduce their next-generation narrowbodies.

Bombarider's optimism for the CSeries is somewhat tempered by sagging demand for business jets as evidenced by its white tail inventory growing from 19 aircraft at the end of its fourth quarter to its current level of 25. Hachey says customer names are assigned to some of those aircraft, but no firm agreements are in place.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news