Bombardier is to carry out market studies to gauge potential demand for a modified version of its Global Express business jet that could be used for scheduled long haul passenger flights.
While work on the idea has yet to progress beyond the embryonic stage, an engineering source at the Canadian manufacturer says that a team has been working on the project for several months. Changes would include a strengthened wing and undercarriage to enable the Global Express to cope with the higher number of flight cycles required in scheduled operations.
A senior Bombardier source confirms that the company has been approached by several potential customers. "We need to do some detailed studies into the market requirements for such an aircraft," says the source. Bombardier declines to comment.
The Global Express is certificated as a long range business jet, and is cleared to carry up to 19 passengers. The airframe is, however, also being offered as the platform for one of the contenders for the UK's airborne stand-off radar(ASTOR)requirement.
A scheduled passenger version of the Global Express could be used for long routes between secondary airports, carrying 12-16 business class passengers in a three-abreast cabin layout, say the sources. A fuselage stretch is believed to have been considered, but rejected because some of the aircraft's range would already be lost due to the heavier wing and undercarriage.
Industry sources say Bombardier discussed a passenger version of the Global Express with Lufthansa several years ago, before the German carrier shelved plans to launch a business jet operation.
Rival long-range business jet manufacturer Gulfstream says it has no plans to develop a scheduled passenger version of its Gulfstream V (GV).
Some industry analysts believe that a new kind of market fragmentation could occur over the next few years, leading to increased use of small, dedicated business or first class aircraft by scheduled airlines. Bombardier was the first manufacturer to tap the market for 50-seat regional jets with its CRJ, itself a development of the Challenger business jet.