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Customers prompt 90-seat proposal

Bombardier is preparing to launch a 90-seat regional jet before its 70-seat contender has even flown because "...our customers are telling us they want such an aircraft," says chairman Laurent Beaudoin. "If we could have delayed them, we would, but they say they want a 90-seater." The company says it has not reduced its market projections for the CRJ-700 despite deciding to study the BRJ-X.

"US regional airlines are restricted to 70 seats by scope clauses [in their pilot contracts], so there is no market there for a 90-seater, unless that changes," Beaudoin says. He says interest expressed by key European airlines - principally CRJ operator Lufthansa CityLine - in Fairchild Aerospace's planned 728JET family has underlined the emerging demand for a 90-seater.

Beaudoin emphasises that, if Bombardier and its eventual risk-sharing partners cannot find a way to produce the BRJ-X economically, then the programme will not be launched. Cost is the key, he says.

He believes that the Airbus A318 and Boeing 717 100-seaters will be more expensive to build and operate than the BRJ-X. "They are coming down from larger aircraft. We are aiming at the middle of the 80/110-seat market, from which we will be able to move down or up more economically." He also believes that Airbus and Boeing will be increasing their prices.

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