Bombardier (booth 4397) has delivered a shot in the arm to its beleaguered Learjet 60XR programme following the collapse of its biggest customer, and hinted at a Global Express replacement as competition heats up in the ultra-long-range sector.
The Canadian manufacturer also said this morning it plans a corporate version of its CSeries airliner, which enters service in 2013.
Speaking at an analysts' breakfast briefing, Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said two new "Signature" interiors in red and black - partly developed for failed European fractional-ownership start-up Jet Republic - would add appeal to the Learjet 60XR.
However, production of the mid-size twinjet at Wichita will be ramped down following the loss of Jet Republic's 110-aircraft commitment, deliveries of which were due to begin this month and continue at a rate of one a month next year.
Bombardier will not reveal individual model output or backlog figures, but there are three Learjet 60XRs in production that had been destined for the Portugal-based operator.
"We are trying to keep a certain level of production, so we are ready when the recovery comes," said Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey.
"We are comfortable with the Learjet 60XR for now," added Ridolfi. "Jet Republic's closure was not a surprise for us so we had structured some plans around this."
In the large-cabin, long-range segment, Ridolfi shrugged off suggestions that Bombardier needs to hit back quickly at Gulfstream's longer-legged, faster G650, claiming the Savannah-based manufacturer was in fact "responding to the Global Express."
Bombardier expects to have its new Global Vision flightdeck for the aircraft certificated by early 2011. However, Ridolfi said: "We are looking at a few things and we will be ready to compete when the time comes." One source says Bombardier has been talking to General Electric about its new NG34, the latest version of its CF34 due to reach the market in 2015, as a possible powerplant for a new ultra-long-range aircraft.
A business jet version of Bombardier's first mainline airliner is also on the cards. "Absolutely there will be a corporate variant of the CSeries," said Ridolfi.