In 1998, Bombardier was the market leader in the up-and-coming regional jet market. But a feisty competitor, Brazil’s Embraer, was nipping at its heels. At that year’s Farnborough Air Show, Bombardier unveiled a project to keep Embraer at bay: a C$1-billion plan to develop an all-new 90-seat regional jet, dubbed the BRJ-X.
“Bombardier executives forecast aircraft with more than 60 seats will make up 22% of regional fleets within a decade, up from 10% today,” Aviation Week reported from Farnborough.
That assessment would prove prescient, as a spike in fuel prices six years later would drive airlines towards bigger regional jets and away from the 50 seaters that had been the industry’s mainstay. Unfortunately, Bombardier did not have the wherewithal to formally launch the BRJ-X project, as financial woes forced it to sharply curtail R&D spending.
Embraer did not pause, however, and developed a new family of “E-Jets” that would grab a leading share of the 70-130-seat market -- exactly the scenario Bombardier was trying to head off with the BRJ-X.