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Bombardier bombs at Paris Air Show

Montreal planemaker fails to sell new model as rivals take off

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A look inside the cabin of a full-size model of the Bombardier CSeries aircraft. The plane was shunned by buyers this week.

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

A look inside the cabin of a full-size model of the Bombardier CSeries aircraft. The plane was shunned by buyers this week.

Boeing and Airbus reasserted their dominance at the aviation industry's largest trade expo as challengers failed to win any orders for single-aisle jets, the workhorses of global airline fleets.

The two biggest planemakers ran neck and neck after the first three days of the Paris Air Show, with $55.8 billion of commitments for Boeing to Airbus's $55.6 billion. Airbus added sales Thursday to United Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Bombardier's CSeries and models from challengers such as Commercial Aircraft of China and Russia's Irkut are being shut out of a single-aisle market projected at almost 25,000 planes in the next two decades. Brazil's Embraer, a Bombardier rival in regional jets, has avoided a confrontation with the Boeing-Airbus narrow-body duopoly and won $16 billion of business this week for upgraded small planes.

"It's one thing to have yet another air show where the CSeries doesn't do anything," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of Fairfax, Va.-based consultant Teal Group. "It's another thing to have their biggest direct competitor do more in an afternoon than they've done in five years."

Embraer garnered 365 orders and options for its revamped regional jets, led by SkyWest Inc. and International Lease Finance Corp. The planes will have new engines, and the largest will stretch to accommodate 132 people.

The Montreal-based Bombardier introduced the CSeries in 2008 as it sought to move up from its signature regional aircraft. China's state-owned Comac and Irkut had national backing in taking on Chicago-based Boeing and Toulouse, France-based Airbus. Commercial success has yet to arrive.

The CSeries, designed to carry as many as 160 people and compete with the smallest Boeing and Airbus offerings, was shunned by buyers this week even with its first flight scheduled to take place within days.

"It is an entirely new plane. I can understand that the airlines are waiting," said Egon Behle, chief executive officer at Germany's MTU Aero Engines AG, a partner with United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney on the CSeries' power plant. "Bombardier does not have a track record like Embraer, Airbus and Boeing."

Bombardier has booked 388 CSeries orders and options, according to the company. That compares with 317 orders for Boeing's upgraded 737 Max this year through May and 391 for the new Airbus A320neo in 2013 up until the beginning of the air show, the companies said.

Those are the newest and most advanced narrow-bodies from Boeing and Airbus, part of a class of planes typically flown on shorter routes with multiple takeoffs and landings daily. Airbus won firm orders for 135 A320s from Easyjet Plc, plus an option for another 100 this week, while Boeing signed an accord in Paris for 175 737 airliners with Ryanair Holdings Plc.

Bombardier's show successes were limited to smaller business jets and the sale of three regional aircraft and four turboprops to Nigeria's Arik Air Ltd. The Canadian manufacturer said an absence of CSeries orders at Paris's Le Bourget airport doesn't indicate airlines' disinterest.

"We are discussing with dozens of potential customers, they've been here this week visiting us," Mike Arcamone, who oversees commercial aircraft for Bombardier, said in an interview in Paris. "We are not scheduling orders for the air show since we must sign orders that are beneficial for both parties."

 

-- Bloomberg News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2013 B6

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