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EBACE: Bombardier rolls out Global 5000/6000 cabin overhaul

Bombardier has overhauled the cabins of its flagship Global 5000 and Global 6000 business jets, announcing at EBACE a series of improvements aimed at ensuring the types continue meeting the evolving demands of business jet buyers.

The updates, which Bombardier says borrow heavily from the cabins of its in-development Global 7000 jet, can be viewed inside a new Global 6000 at Bombardier's static display.

Bombardier also has a LearJet 75, Challenger 350 and Challenger 650 on display at the show.

The updated Global 5000/6000 cabin is now standard to new aircraft, and the company is looking at offering a retrofit to Globals already in service, say executives.

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The customisable "Premier" cabin, as Bombardier calls it, will bring a "common look and feel across" the Global products, says Bombardier manager of industrial design Tim Fagan. "The alignment across the Global family is very elegant."

"We are really trying to raise the game," he says, adding that the retrofit will "redefine what a no-compromise experience is on an aircraft".

The cabin of the Global 6000 on the static display has dark, business-like colours, cut by straight lines and right angles. White leather seats with rounded edges bring contrast, lightening the cabin, executives note.

Fagan describes the cabin as having a clean and straight look – a "rectilinear" design, with "crisp lines" and "simple geometry".

Executives call particular attention to the seats, which Bombardier designed after consultations with a UK-based seat supplier to luxury carmaker Aston Martin.

The seats, which Bombardier upholsters in-house, have higher backrests, raised armrests and a hard shell across the back of the seats, Fagan notes. He says Bombardier tailored the seats to the form of the human body to eliminate pressure points.

The new cabin also has flat side ledges, and options include stone or wood-veneer floors in the aircraft galley and lavatories. Galley cabinets have square latches, and the crystal storage cabinet has a new flip-up door, executives point out.

The company has also brought digital technology into the cabins, offering Ka-band wi-fi and a cabin management system (CMS) that can be controlled using Apple iPads or iPhones, or devices that run the Android operating system.

Passengers can use those devices to operate the aircraft's entertainment system and various aspects of the cabin environment, such as lighting, executives say.

The Ka-band wi-fi has download speeds up to 15 Mbps, says Bombardier.

The cabins also include media bays in which passengers can connect streaming media players such as Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV into the CMS, says Bombardier.

Bombardier is offering the upgrades amid changing customer expectations.

Twenty years ago, aircraft performance – primarily range – were prime selling points for large-cabin business jets, executives say.

Today, however, a number of competing products offer exceptional range. Therefore, cabin features – fit and finish – have assumed greater competitive importance, they say.

"Customer needs are evolving," says Bombardier vice-president of business aircraft marketing Brad Nolen. "We had an opportunity to match what we had on the 7000."

The 5000/6000 cabin overhaul comes as the company moves forward with flight testing its next-generation Global 7000.

The first Global 7000 flight test vehicle (FTV1) made its maiden flight in November 2016, followed by first flight of FTV2 in March. Bombardier has since flown the aircraft to speeds up to Mach 0.995, Bombardier has said.

On 10 May, the Global 7000 FTV3 made its maiden flight from the company's Downsview manufacturing site in Toronto.

During that 4h 10min flight, the GE Aviation Passport-powered aircraft ascended to 51,000ft – its maximum operating altitude, the company said.

Bombardier still expects Global 7000 certification in 2018 – two years later than initially planned due to design changes that reduced the weight of the Triumph Aerostructures-made wing, Bombardier has said.

The Global 7000 will carry up to 17 passengers and has a range up to 7,400nm, according to Bombardier.

Meanwhile, Bombardier has proposed the Global 8000, an aircraft, says the firm, that will carry 13 passengers and have a 7,900nm range.

By comparison, Global 5000s can carry 13 passengers and have 5,200nm range, while Global 6000s can carry the same number of passengers and have a 6,000nm range.

The company has released few details about the Global 8000, other than to say it will "be disclosing more, further into the Global 7000 flight testing".

Company executives also dismiss the notion that modernising 5000/6000 cabins might subtract interest from Global 7000s/8000s.

"There is a bunch of stuff on the 7000 that we haven't told people about yet," says Nolen. "There is a lot of magic still on the 7000 that, for competitive reasons, we haven't talked about."

Bombardier is relying heavily on business jet sales to help the company reach goals set for 2020 as part of a five-year growth plan.

The company aims for its business jet division to achieve $10 billion in revenue by 2020, up from $5.7 billion in 2016. Bombardier seeks company-wide revenue by 2020 of more than $25 billion, up from $16.3 billion in 2016.

The business jet unit earned a profit before interest and taxes of $74 million in the first quarter of 2016, down 10% year-over-year.

That profit, combined with the transportation unit's strong earnings, offset the commercial aviation division's loss of $56 million before interest and taxes in the first quarter.

Overall, Bombardier earned a profit before interest and taxes of $105 million in the first quarter, roughly double its first quarter 2016 earnings.

The business jet unit closed the period having delivered 29 business jets across its Global, Challenger and LearJet lines, down from 31 in the first quarter of 2016. First quarter deliveries "skewed" to light jets, Bombardier said.

Bombardier's business jet revenue declined 23% year-over-year in the first quarter to $1.0 billion, which the company attributed to an "unfavourable mix" of deliveries and "lower revenues from sales of pre-owned aircraft".

Still, during the first quarter earnings call, chief executive Alain Bellemare called the business jet market "pretty stable" and noted Bombardier has made "significant adjustments" in the last two years.

Indeed, Bombardier in 2015 reduced annual production of the Global 5000/6000 to about 50 aircraft from 80 aircraft, a reflection of easing demand for large-cabin, long-range business jets.

"We are starting to be a little bit more optimistic about where the market is going to be going over the next like two, three years," Bellemare said on an 8 May earnings call.

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