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LearJet 85 weathering economic slowdown

June 22, 2010, Montreal - The CSeries may be garnering headlines and the attention of aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus, but Bombardier says its new all-composite Learjet 85 isn't a forgotten aircraft.


June 22, 2010
By The Canadian Press

The new business jet, set for delivery starting in 2013, has weathered the economic slowdown while other business jet models have faced order cancellations and deferrals.

"In the last year with the economic global issues we haven't lost a sale, so the confidence is there,'' Ralph Acs, vice-president of Learjet 85 said in an interview Monday outside a mockup of the plane.

The world's largest business jet manufacturer has firm orders for more than 60 Learjet 85s and expects to deliver 450 planes over 10 years.

Acs says orders for new aircraft come in waves and demand should pick up closer to its first flight, perhaps in a year or two, and once it is in service.

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"We're approximately where we thought we would be, so we feel good about it,'' he said at one of the company's Montreal facilities near Trudeau International Airport.

Launched in 2007, the US$18.5 million, 10-seat aircraft fits between the Learjet 60 and Challenger 300. It has the speed, range, styling and fuel efficiency that customers have said they wanted in a new mid-size business jet.

The cockpit has many of the same features of larger planes and its composite design allows for a cabin large enough that passengers don't have to crouch down the aisle.

Structural parts will be made in Mexico and the plane will be assembled in Wichita, Kansas. But, the heart of the design was developed in Montreal, where a team of 1,500 Bombardier employees worked on the plane, its composite cousin CSeries and the CRJ1000, which is set for delivery later this fiscal year.

Bombardier Inc. and other Canadian aerospace manufacturers are expected to announce new orders at next month's Farnborough International Air Show in Britain, an industry analyst said.

Cameron Doerksen of Versant Partners said the show should be more active than last year's Paris Air Show, which shares the spotlight with the Farnborough show southwest of London on alternating years.

Hopes are high for the CSeries, a new-generation 110- to 149-seat technologically advanced passenger jet. The final design is expected
to be locked in next month, while deliveries are scheduled to begin
in 2013.

"Bombardier has the potential to make the biggest news at Farnborough as a new order(s) for the CSeries is widely expected,'' Doerksen said in a report.

Several other manufacturers, including simulator and training company CAE Inc. and landing gear maker Heroux-Devtek Inc., could also disclose orders, he added.

Qatar Airways and Chinese airlines are rumoured to be closest to proceeding with a purchase from the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer.

Bombardier says it is speaking with about 60 airlines, including a handful that are close to placing orders.

The aircraft has 94 firm orders and options for 90 more planes from three customers. The promised lower operating costs and fuel burn has prompted Boeing and Airbus to consider re-engining their existing 737 and A320-type fleet.

Spokesman Marc Duchesne said the company hopes to be able to announce orders at Farnborough, but said it's hard to "speculate'' if they will be finalized within the next six weeks.

Bombardier will also announce its aerospace market update at the air show.

The industry has faced a tough year but there are signs of a slow recovery. Passenger traffic is increasing along with airline profits.

Used business aircraft inventories are down, but remain high. Corporate aviation information provider Jetnet says the percentage of used business jets for sale decreased to 15.5 per cent in April from a high of 17.7 per cent in July 2009.

Business jet use was up 7.9 per cent in May compared to a year ago. All segments improved, with mid-size cabin aircraft leading the way up 13.6 per cent.