expects order intake for its turboprop to bounce back, with the company setting a near-term target of rebuilding the backlog to around 18 months.
That target is equivalent to about 60 aircraft. Whether the objective can be met by year-end is not clear, however. Securing sufficient orders would represent “a really good year,” says Chet Fuller, senior vice president commercial for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
The company sees opportunities in various markets, including among leasing companies. With the Q400 fleet now having reached 400 aircraft and 42 customers, lessors will find it easier to place additional aircraft, which Fuller says is translating into interest from those buyers. The expansion of the sales force in the Middle East and Asia should also pay dividends, he argues. Fuller notes that by year-end, Bombardier will have 75% of its commercial team outside North America, where it was previously focused.
Bombardier continues to eye options for a stretch of the Q400, also referred to as the Q400X. But with several other development programs underway, such as theCS100 and CS300 narrowbodies and different business jets, that is not on the agenda. Fuller rules out a brand new turboprop, although the Q400X and Q400 could feature a new powerplant.
Despite the overseas expansion, the North American market is not being ignored. Fuller says there are several sales campaigns underway with U.S. domestic carriers, principally looking at CRJ regional jets. In some cases scope clause changes still have to be negotiated by the carriers, though.
Fuller says the aircraft maker also is in talks with “a major European carrier” about a deal for.
Bombardier also plans to add China Express as an operator of CRJ900s on July 20. Chinese authorities are now in Canada to secure the certification. China Express has six of the aircraft on firm order, with options for five more.
Fuller downplays the lack of orders the CSeries has secured relative to rival products such as theMax and . He notes that the Canadian narrowbody has as many orders before service entry as the original Airbus and single-aisle products had at the same stage. The CSeries still has to overcome market questions, such as whether it will even make it to market and what its performance will be. But those issues should fade, Fuller argues, after the aircraft flies – late this year or early next – and when deliveries commence in late 2013.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Aerospace Summit here, Fuller argues the CS100 in particular will have success in the Middle East for use on long-routes to former Soviet markets and also into Africa where the range and large baggage space are key. Although the CSeries has no announced Middle East buyer, company officials suggest some of the three undisclosed customers are from that region.