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MAKS: Bombardier sees Q400 future in Russia

Russia may have come to the rescue of Bombardier's flagging Q400 turboprop programme, after the airframer sealed preliminary agreements at MAKS to set up a local assembly line for the type, linked to a pair of tentative orders for up to 100 aircraft.

Bombardier has signed a memorandum of understanding to "explore" the potential of setting up a joint-venture production facility with Russian state-owned conglomerate Rostec.

This new plant would assemble the aircraft covered by the tentative agreements with Ilyushin Finance and Avia Capital Services, Rostec's leasing arm. If finalised, each will take 50 of the turboprops, for a combined value of $3.39 billion at list prices.

Although the agreement covering the assembly line is only at an early stage, Bombardier's vice-president and general manager for turboprop programmes, Simon Roberts, believes there is a "very real possibility" that it will proceed.

Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier's commercial aircraft business, says that expanding the manufacturer's global industrial footprint is part of its strategy for emerging markets and that Russia will play a key role in the company's growth plans.

No timescale, production volume or location has yet been determined for the planned facility, says Roberts. However, a decision needs to be made before the preliminary orders for the Russian-made Q400s are finalised in 2014.

The Russian Q400 assembly line is likely to be geared to supply customers in emerging economies. Meanwhile, Roberts says, the existing production plant in Toronto will remain intact to focus on "traditional markets".

Bombardier's backlog for the Q400 stood at 36 aircraft at the end of June 2013. Nevertheless, Roberts is confident that the Toronto final assembly line will remain in operation beyond 2014 and that the manufacturer could sustain two such facilities for several years.

He adds that the Q400 is a "young aircraft" that still offers "untapped opportunity for [further] development", such as flexible cabin/cargo cabin configurations.

Bombardier also signed a tentative partnership agreement at MAKS with Russian airframer Irkut to provide aftermarket support for the latter's in-development MC-21 narrowbody.

Bombardier will support MC-21 operators through its local service network in Russia. But the company aims to become involved in "several areas" to support the entry into service of both the MC-21 and Bombardier CSeries - which share similar Pratt & Whitney geared fan engines - in Russia and other regions, says Eric Martel, president for customer services & specialised and amphibious aircraft.

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