Declining regional aircraft sales have continued in the third quarter, with orders for the year falling by almost 50% compared with the same period in 2007, largely due to a major fall-off in turboprop sales. However, output across regional airframers' plants continues to grow, with deliveries rising by 14%.

Total regional aircraft orders in the first nine months of 2008 fell to 198, from 369 in the same period in 2007. The fall during the third quarter was particularly marked, dropping from 94 to 38. In the first nine months overall, turboprop sales suffered a dramatic fall of 70% from 166 to 50, while regional jet orders dropped by 27%, from 203 to 148.

Overall market leader Embraer has had a slightly better first nine months than in 2007 - net orders grew from 94 to 101 - although its third-quarter sales fell from 57 to 18.

Bombardier has suffered a decline during the first nine months of its current fiscal year (beginning 1 February) after a strong performance last year. Its overall order tally has dropped by more than 50% from 187 to 89. Orders were down across both its turboprop and jet product lines, although it was the latter that was hit particularly hard, with sales falling from 109 to 47. Sales of its turboprop Q Series were slightly behind the jet models, at 42, and have declined by almost half on the 78 sold in last year's period.

ATR's sluggish year continued in the third quarter, with no new orders being added to its half-year tally of eight sales (although a major deal for 20 ATR 72s from Lion Air was agreed in the fourth quarter). During the first nine months of 2007, ATR had taken 88 orders.

Embraer continues to head the regional production ranking, shipping over half of all the 226 regional aircraft delivered in the first nine months. Its 118 deliveries represent a rise of almost 40% as it continues to ramp up E-Jet output. The airframer also shipped six ERJ-145s from its China production line.

Bombardier's overall production has declined in the first nine months by 18% on 2007, falling from 90 deliveries to 73. Production of its jet and turboprop models is effectively in equilibrium with deliveries of the Q Series declining from 47 to 36 and CRJs falling from 43 to 37.

ATR has driven its output up by almost 50% this year, with shipments rising from 24 to 37. It can at last brag that it is the world's top turboprop producer - albeit by just one aircraft over rival Bombardier.

The regional order backlog has increased slightly since mid-year, from 892 to 905. Embraer remains market leader, with its 459 orders representing just over half of the total regional backlog and almost three-quarters of the jet sector. Bombardier remains in second place with just under one-third of the total market, and ATR continues to lead the turboprop sector with a 60% share.

Bombardier expects production of the Q Series "classic" turboprops to end "sometime in the middle of next year", as it prepares to concentrate output entirely on the Q400 model. Bombardier management hopes the move will free resources for the Q400 programme, which has suffered with supply chain challenges.

Source: Flight International