Bombardier to debut Learjet 75 Liberty cabin at NBAA

Bombardier will debut a full-scale cabin mock-up of the Learjet 75 Liberty at the forthcoming National Business Aviation Association Convention and Exhibition as it prepares the modified light business jet for service entry next year.

The Canadian airframer launched the Liberty in July as a “rescoped” version of the high-end Learjet 75. The move followed several years of poor sales for its entry-level product, and Bombardier hopes that can be reversed by rebranding, revamping and repositioning the aircraft within the light-business jet sector.

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Designed to compete against rival light jets such as the Cessna Citation CJ3+ and Embraer Phenom 300E, the Liberty trims accommodation from eight to six seats, and options to bring the list price below the crucial $10 million mark – $3 million less than its predecessor and around the same price as its competitors.

Peter Likoray, senior vice-president, worldwide sales and marketing for Bombardier Business Aircraft says the cabin mock-up “will show light-jet customers just how spacious and comfortable our newest Learjet is”.

The Liberty debuts what Bombardier calls “the segment’s first executive suite” – a spacious area at the front of the cabin with two forward-facing seats and 0.9m (3ft) of legroom, which the airframer says is “unprecedented” in the category.

Bombardier declines to detail the orderbook for the Liberty, but says the aircraft is “generating strong interest on the market”.

Flight testing is now under way at Bombardier’s US test centre and manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas; the Honeywell TFE731-40BR-powered aircraft is on track for certification and service entry in 2020.

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Bombardier reports Q2 aerospace profits as commercial exit nears

Bombardier’s business and commercial aircraft divisions posted profits in the second quarter of 2019 as the company boosted deliveries and shifted its business further from commercial aerospace.

The company’s commercial aircraft unit posted a second quarter profit before interest and taxes of $226 million, reversing a $668 million loss in the same period last year.

Bombardier’s business aircraft division earned a profit of $84 million in the second quarter, down 22% from $108 million one year earlier.

During a 1 August earnings call, chief executive Alain Bellemare insists Bombardier’s strategy of divesting its commercial aircraft holdings will pay off.

“With the closing of Q400 transaction and the agreement to sell the CRJ programme to [Mitsubishi Heavy Industries], our three underperforming commercial aircraft programmers have been successfully addressed,” Bellemare says. “This allows us to full focus on business aviation.”

The divestitures started last year when Bombardier passed to Airbus majority ownership of the then-struggling CSeries programme, now called the A220.

In June Bombardier sold the Dash 8 turboprop programme to Longview Aviation Capital for $300 million and announced a deal to sell the CRJ programme to Mitsubishi for $550 million. Bombardier expects that deal will close in the second half of 2020.

“We have retired major risk,” Bellemare says. The efforts are enabling Bombardier to squeeze cash out of “under-performing and non-core assets”.

Bombardier has also in recent years eliminated $2 billion in exposure stemming from CRJ-related “residual value guarantees” – deals under which it compensates aircraft buyers if aircraft values decline to less than specified levels, Bellemare says.

He also says the A220 has fared well under Airbus, noting the European airframer has secured 300 new A220 commitments and orders since taking the programme’s helm.

“We have continued to make solid progress on our turnaround journey. We are pleased with our momentum in aerospace where our transformation is progressing ahead of plan,” says Bellemare.

Bombardier’s commercial aircraft unit delivered 17 aircraft in the second quarter, including 11 CRJ900s and six Q400s. That is up 70% from 10 deliveries in the same period last year.

The unit’s revenue slipped 16% year-on-year in the second quarter to $516 million, partly reflecting the loss of revenue from the CSeries programme.

Bombardier’s $226 million second quarter commercial aircraft profit includes a $219 million cash infusion from the purchase by Longview of the Dash 8 programme, a financial filing shows.

Bombardier chief financial officer John Di Bert disclosed the five-CRJ-order cancellation during the earnings call. The company’s CRJ backlog now stands at just 36 CRJ900s.

Bombardier expects to clear the backlog and shutter production within 12-15 months, leaving Mitsubishi with the CRJ’s type certificates and the programme’s global aftermarket operation.

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Bombardier expects in 2019 to deliver 15-20 of its flagship Global 7500, which entered service in late 2018



Bombardier’s business jet division generated $1.4 billion in second quarter revenue, up 6% year-on-year, and delivered 35 aircraft, up from 34 in the same period one year earlier, the filing shows.

Second quarter business jet deliveries included two light jets, 17 mid-size jets and 16 large jets.

Bombardier does not generally specify deliveries by aircraft type but says second quarter deliveries included two of its flagship Global 7500. That aircraft entered service in December 2018.

“Our financial performance was right on plane for the second quarter and is tracking to our full-year guidance,” Bellemare says of the business aviation unit.

Starting in the third quarter Bombardier will roll its business and commercial aviation financial results into a single division called Bombardier Aviation.

It anticipates that unit will generate $8 billion in revenue this year, down from a previous estimate of some $9.7 billion. Bombardier documents attribute the decline partly to the five CRJ order cancellations.

Bombardier predicts it will deliver 175-180 business and commercial aircraft this year, including 15-20 7500s.

The company delivered 173 total aircraft last year, filings show.

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​Bombardier completes big CMS installation in Singapore

Bombardier’s Singapore service centre has installed and certified a new cabin management system (CMS) on a Global Express XRS, as the company beefs up its Southeast Asia presence.

The work involved the installation and certification of a Lufthansa AG nice HD CMS and new Wi-Fi system aboard a ten-year-old aircraft operated by an undisclosed customer, says Bombardier.

This was the first time such an installation has taken place on a Bombardier jet in the Asia-Pacific.

Work is underway to quadruple the size of the service centre, based at Seletar Airport, to 430,000 square feet. Inauguration is targeted for 2020.

It will have new customer facilities, a paint shop, interior finishing capabilities, and provide services such as training, sales, and customer support. It will allow for broader MRO work, including heavy structural and composite repairs.

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Bombardier revamps Learjet 75 with six-passenger Liberty

Bombardier has launched the Learjet 75 Liberty – a “rescoped” version of its light jet that trims accommodation and options to bring the list price below the crucial $10 million mark.

Removal of two seats from the usually eight-passenger aircraft allows installation of a pair of “executive suites” at the front of the 6m (19ft 10in)-long cabin, with ottoman footrests folding out from the partition in front, as well as four seats in a club configuration further aft.

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To be available from 2020, Bombardier believes the changes – plus the retention of the twinjet’s US Federal Aviation Administration Part 25 certification – will allow the Learjet 75 to compete against rivals like the Cessna Citation CJ3+ and Embraer Phenom 300E.

Both those competitor aircraft retail at under $10 million – well below the $13 million-plus list price for the Learjet 75 – but are only certificated to the lower Part 23 standard.

In addition, the changes increase the Learjet 75’s maximum zero-fuel weight to 7,480kg (16,500lb), up from 7,260kg previously, and maximum payload rises to 1,320kg, from 957kg.

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Range also grows by 40nm (74km), to 2,080nm, compared with 1,970nm for the Phenom 300E and 2,040nm for Citation CJ3+.

Previously standard features now made optional include the auxiliary power unit and lavatory sink, says Bombardier; an eight-passenger layout will also remain available, although this trims range to 2,040nm.

Deliveries will begin next year, although the airframer is staying tight-lipped over the identity of any launch customer.

Bombardier has for several years identified the high price of the Learjet 70/75 relative to the competition as a cause of its slow sales, with output currently at one aircraft per month.

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Although declining to detail the orderbook for the type, Bombardier says it is seeing “healthy [sales] activity” for the twinjet, with “a fairly balanced backlog”. It denies that a successful uptake of the revamp is “make or break” for the Witchita, Kansas-built Learjet line, however.

No changes to the Learjet 75’s Honeywell TFE731-40BR engines are required for the Liberty variant, and the previously announced addition of a bespoke version of the Garmin G5000 flightdeck is still proceeding.

Having recently disposed of the Q400 twin-turboprop airliner and agreed a sale of the CRJ regional jet family, Bombardier has hitched its aviation strategy to the business jet market.

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Bombardier halts CRJ sales amid pending divestiture

New Bombardier CRJ regional jets are no longer for sale.

The Montreal airframer confirms it has halted sales of additional new CRJs due to its pending divestiture of the CRJ programme to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).

Bombardier announced the MHI deal on 25 June, saying it “expected to conclude” CRJ production in the second half of 2020 following delivery of all remaining aircraft in the backlog.

It now confirms it has halted sales activities, news that seemingly assures the imminent end of the CRJ line.

“There will be no more CRJ sales,” Bombardier tells FlightGlobal. “CRJ production will wind down until all aircraft in the current backlog have been delivered.”

Bombardier’s CRJ backlog stands at 36 CRJ900s, the majority of which are destined for the fleets of Air Canada’s regional partner Jazz and US regional carriers PSA Airlines and SkyWest Airlines. Uganda Airlines also has outstanding orders for two CRJ900s, according to Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer.

Bombardier expects to close the sale of the CRJ programme to MHI, parent of Mitsubishi Aircraft, in the first half of 2020. The deal calls for Mitsubishi to pay $550 million in cash for the programme and to assume some $200 million in debt.

After the deal closes, Bombardier will continue producing CRJs for MHI until the backlog is cleared.

When asked about the status of the CRJ programme’s existing sales and marketing staff, Bombardier deferred to its 25 June media release.

“Pursuant to the agreement, MHI will acquire the maintenance, support, refurbishment, marketing and sales activities for the CRJ Series aircraft,” Bombardier’s release said.

MHI will also acquire CRJ type certificates and CRJ service and support centers in Montreal, Toronto, Bridgeport in West Virginia and Tucson in Arizona.

Bombardier delivered the first CRJ in 1992. When the backlog is clear in 2020, the company will have handed over more than 2,100 of the regional jets, Fleets Analyzer shows.

News of the Bombardier-MHI CRJ deal comes one week after Mitsubishi Aircraft rebranded its in-development MRJ as SpaceJet. It also announced development of a new 76-seat variant called the SpaceJet M100, which will complement the existing 88-seat SpaceJet M90, which Mitsubishi Aircraft expects to deliver from 2020.

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The content below has been provided by a third party and does not necessarily represent the views or opinion of FlightGlobal

The ACMI business is dominated by the regional segment and is growing fast in Europe

The practice of a sizeable airline subcontracting its regional flying to a partner airline is widely known in the United States. Such operations—a form of ACMI flying, where the operating carrier provides the aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance (also known as wet leasing)—have, however, only recently begun to take hold in Europe, but they are growing rapidly.

While ACMI short-term cover for both operational gaps and imported seasonal capacity often switches between providers, the strategic outsourcing of production on a permanent basis involves multi-year contracts. These are the deals which are becoming more prevalent in Europe, to such an extent that the regional airline market is undergoing a transformation which is likely to lead to consolidation into a small number of well-financed, agile wet-lease capacity providers of substantial scale in terms of fleet, sitting alongside a number of independent regional carriers of varying size.

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Shifting the strategy

The drivers pushing airlines to pursue ACMI as a strategic option in Europe are multiple. Flexibility, focus, and risk management are among those cited by Cathal O’Connell, chief commercial officer of CityJet, which operates services on behalf of three carriers, with a fourth starting at the end of October 2018. “Customer airlines of ACMI providers commit to the capacity for a duration of their own choosing, have nolong-term interest in the aircraft asset, acquisition, maintenance, adoption onto their

AOC, or value,” he explains. “Also, those customer airlines do not need to concern themselves with the recruitment, training, or retention of crews.

“The customer airline can focus on their own fleet and resources and contract with ACMI providers to worry about smaller fleets and, to a certain extent, the more difficult end of the market to recruit crews into,” O’Connell adds. “What they get for a fixed hourly rate is an aircraft which will turn up at the gate and fly their passengers on their schedule. In Europe in particular, it is this flexibility and risk management—rather than achieving a lower operating cost—which drives such strategies.”

As VP of external production at SAS Scandinavian Airlines System, Mikael Wångdahl leads the procurement and oversight of his airline’s ACMI partners. He agrees that major airlines benefit from using partners to secure efficient regional aircraft operations.

“There are many reasons, such as simplifying your own operation both in organization and fleet. By simplification, you are able to focus on your core business and by doing so you can enhance your cost-effectiveness,” Wångdahl observes. “You also benefit by mixing large and small aircraft, which creates possibilities to better match your capacity to the need on destinations and over different seasons.”

Little wonder then that ACMI flying now accounts for 22 percent of all flying in Europe’s regional segment. In absolute terms, ACMI regional services have grown by 66 percent over the last five years, during which time the average number of seats per aircraft used has increased by seven percent.

Attractive rates

While flexibility, as O’Connell claims, is important to major carriers, every ACMI provider needs to be able to offer attractive rates to win contracts—and that means lower costs in the areas of both staff and equipment. Operators, therefore, look for aircraft which offer the best all-round economics plus reliability. As O’Connell says, it needs to turn up at the gate.

The largest single regional ACMI operator in Europe is Air Nostrum, which operates on behalf of Iberia. Its jets of choice are the Bombardier CRJ900 and CRJ1000. And of the three types operated by CityJet, its 22 CRJ900s form the largest fleet.

Other leading ACMI providers include Adria (nine CRJ900s and three CRJ700s) and Nordica (10 CRJ900s and two CRJ700s). It is hardly surprising, therefore, to discover that the CRJ Series is the leading aircraft type for regional ACMI operations in Europe, contributing 40 percent of the total.

With up to 10 percent lower cash operating cost per seat, the CRJ Series is an economic leader in every class. Equally important though is reliability, which is crucial in an operational environment where the aircraft may operate out of base for long periods.

The latest figures show the CRJ family operating at 99.5 percent dispatch reliability.

Brand new aircraft for a consistent brand

The challenge of service consistency in outsourced production is also offset by using newer aircraft. These provide a customer experience in line with the contracting airline’sexpectations—a seamless service where the major’s brand values are carried throughfrom larger aircraft to regional jets. In this area of the passenger experience, the new

Atmosphère cabin of the CRJ Series can only strengthen the family’s position among European ACMI carriers.

The acquisition of new aircraft by the ACMI operator represents a strong financial commitment, which can be facilitated by various financing structures, market consolidation and the extension in length of ACMI agreements, providing the known baseline production referred to by O’Connell.

There is still a major gap between ACMI operations in North America and Europe, but the two are getting closer, particularly with the onset of consolidation among Europe’s

ACMI operators. At the 2018 Farnborough Air Show, for example, CityJet and Air Nostrum announced their intention to join forces under a new holding company, which would create the largest regional airline group in Europe.

This news was followed in late August 2018 by Danish Air Transport (DAT) buying a majority shareholding (60 percent) of Nordic Regional Airlines (Norra) from Finnair, which retains the other 40 percent. Further tie-ups are likely, with combinations designed to give added strength to ACMI providers. The union of a strong wet-leaseoperator with a legacy carrier will enable the latter to focus on expanding its brandfootprint and in developing effective hub feed, while the wet-lease operator can focus onoptimizing cost and operations by becoming the champion of this market segment. Thisimplies long-term strategic partnerships between the two, who end up extractingmaximum value for them and the passengers.

On the other side of that union—and anchored by a long-term deal – the ACMI specialist can fine-tune its skills and be able to set high benchmarks for optimized costs and operational excellence. Such standards need time to develop, thus the key element is the long-term nature of the partnership.

Benefits which may accrue from longer deals include having crews trained to deliver the major’s onboard service seamlessly, better planning for maintenance (resulting in lower costs) and better financial terms on aircraft (whether leased or bought) as the finance house involved would be able to see longer-term revenue projections in the business plans of both partners.

The outsourcing of capacity for regional operations is not going to slow down in Europe.

While ad hoc ACMI work—for aircraft of all sizes—will always have a place, regional ACMI fleets working on longer contracts now represent 46 percent of wet lease flights in Europe. The CRJ Series, already with a considerable share of this market, is literally the vehicle around which airlines can confidently build their business plans.

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Bombardier builds momentum as new Globals near delivery

Bombardier set the bar high for itself and competitors at least year’s EBACE when it unveiled the Global 5500 and 6500 programme, which it had surprisingly kept secret from the industry’s prying eyes.

Now Bombardier is carrying last year’s splash into this year’s show, highlighting the on-schedule development of those jets while unveiling updates for several aircraft in its line-up.

At the same time, recent changes at Bombardier’s corporate level leave no doubt the company is betting the future of its aerospace division on business, not commercial, aircraft.

“Flight testing, production – everything is running as per plan,” Bombardier vice-president of programme management Julien Boudreault recently said of the 5500 and 6500 programme. “We are confident we are going to hit what we have broadcast.”

Boudreault and other executives insist the 5500 and 6500, updated versions of the 5000 and 6000, will achieve service entry before the end of 2019.

Bombardier has moved the first production-model 6500 from its Toronto Downsview manufacturing site to its Montreal completion centre, marking another milestone on the service-entry timeline. Bombardier will finish 5500s at its site in Wichita.

Three flight-test aircraft have completed 90% of 5500 and 6500 flight testing, with testing performed out of Wichita, Bombardier says. The flight-test aircraft have included two modified 6000s and one modified 5000.

Bombardier has promised the 5500 and 6500 will significantly outperform their siblings.

The 17-passenger 6500 will have 6,600nm (12,200km) range, about 600nm more than the 6000, while the 16-passenger 5500’s 5,700nm range will best the 5000’s reach by 500nm, it says.

Those gains partly reflect the 5500 and 6500’s newly designed wing and the enhanced performance of the types’ Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 turbofans, says Boudreault.

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With 10-stage titanium compressors and new turbines and fans, R-R squeezed the Pearl 15’s overall pressure ratio to 43:1, with the engine’s high-pressure compressor hitting a 24:1 pressure ratio.


“It truly is the highest-tech engine in the industry,” says Bombardier vice-president of marketing and strategy Brad Nolen of the Pearl 15. “It has the highest pressure ratio of any engine in the entire industry.”

Pearl 15s burn 7% less fuel per pound of thrust than the R-R BR710s that power 5000s and 6000s and generate up to 9% more thrust when departing from hot-and-high airports. The 6500 can now operate roughly 1,300nm further from such airfields. It could, for instance, reach Europe from Toluca, near Mexico City.

Bombardier also updated the 5500 and 6500’s wings, particularly tweaking the trailing edge. This has boosted fuel efficiency by 13% and let Bombardier increase the aircraft’s top speed to Mach 0.9.

“That wing and engine combination is translating into the longest range in the segment,” says Boudreault.

For instance, the 5500 can fly from Los Angeles to Moscow, or Sao Paulo to Paris. The 6500 can connect London with Hong Kong, Bombardier says.

Bombardier also gave the 5500 and 6500 updated cockpit systems, including a “combined vision system” that displays an overlay of synthetic terrain and infrared imagery on a head-up display.

The company has updated the aircraft’s cabin, too, adding 4K-resolution entertainment screens and offering an optional “Nuage” chaise lounge, which Bombardier manager of industrial design Tim Fagan calls “a first and only in business aviation”.

Bombardier, which is showcasing the lounge for the first time at EBACE, designed the chaise because many customers cover onboard credenzas with cushions.

“That gave us the hint at introducing this,” Fagan says.

Instead of a cushion-topped credenza, customers can order the chaise, which sits atop under-seat storage and can adjust from a lounging position to fully flat, though it is not certificated for use during take-off or landing, Bombardier says.

“This is a way of making the credenza way more functional,” says Nolen.


The 5500 and 6500 programme comes amid a broader shift by Bombardier towards focusing more on business aircraft.

Bombardier last year sold majority ownership of the CSeries (now known as the A220) to Airbus and announced the sale of its Q400 turboprop programme to an affiliate of Viking Air, an agreement expected to close in mid-2019. The CRJ programme’s future seems uncertain.

Then on 2 May Bombardier announced it is combining its business and commercial aviation units into a single division called Bombardier Aviation.

“We want to focus on business aircraft going forward,” Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare told investors during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. “That’s where we are putting our chips.”

To that end, Bombardier continues to bolster its global aircraft services reach.

“More and more what you see from us is facilities around the world that can offer the full range of solutions,” says Bombardier vice-president and general manager of customer experience Jean-Christophe Gallagher.

The company has launched an “instant feedback” service that allows customers to quickly contact Bombardier support via smartphones, and Gallagher receives the alerts daily, he says.

Bombardier is also building new service centres, such as one in Miami, and expanding others, such as its Singapore site.

“This will be the largest maintenance facility owned by any business OEM in Asia,” says Gallagher of the Singapore facility. “Singapore is really the headquarters of our Asian support structure.”

“The industry is headed… into large facilities that can do it all,” he adds.

Bombardier currently has 59 service centres worldwide, including nine company-owned sites. It has 30 ground vehicles used to dispatch technicians to aircraft and expects to grow that fleet to 40 vehicles.

Although the 5500 and 6500 programme is Bombardier’s newest, the 19-passenger 7500 remains the flagship. That aircraft, powered by GE Aviation Passport 20 turbofans, has 7,700nm (14,260km) range and can reach speeds up to M0.925.

Bombardier delivered the first 7500 in December last year to an aircraft lessor, but leased that aircraft back, placing it into demonstrator and record-setting duty.

“We’ve deployed it to many areas of the world, to stretch its legs as much as possible,” says Bombardier vice-president of 7500/8000 programme management Stephane Loubert. “The exciting part is getting the aircraft in front of customers.”

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As of late April, the demonstrator 7500 had logged 316h of flight with perfect dispatch reliability, criss-crossing the globe, he says.

In March, a 7500 completed what Bombardier called the “longest mission ever flown by a purpose-built business jet”, flying 8,152nm from Singapore to Tucson, Arizona.

Later that month, a 7500 flew 2,976nm from Westchester County White Plains airport near New York to London Luton airport in a record 5h 26min, averaging M0.92, Bombardier said.

Bombardier announced more 7500 news in April, disclosing that the aircraft has a jetlag-busting lighting technology the company calls the Soleil Lighting System.

The system uses algorithms and flight details (take-off and landing times, sunset and sunset times, for instance) to create lighting schemes designed to help passengers adjust better to time zone shifts.

For example, the system can automatically dim cabin lights shortly after take-off to encourage sleep, then bring the lights up shortly before arrival, Bombardier says.

Just two 7500s had entered service as of earlier this year, but Bombardier expects to deliver 15-20 6500s and 7500s this year, and 30-40 aircraft by 2020.

‘PIVOT’ TO 8000

The status of Bombardier’s Global 8000, the sister ship to the 7500, remains uncertain, as does the 8000’s potential performance.

Bombardier launched the 8000 at the same time as the 7000 in 2010, at the time marketing the 7000’s range as 7,300nm and the 8,000’s as 7,900nm. In 2018, however, Bombardier renamed the 7000 the 7500 to reflect improvements that brought that aircraft’s range to 7,700nm.

Bombardier has meanwhile talked little of the 8000. Executives say the 7500 has generated most customer interest and concede that the aircraft’s longer range has eroded the 8,000’s performance benefits.

Still, Bombardier insists it will next return to the 8,000.

“We are really looking at that 7500 entry into service and making sure it’s smooth, and when we finish that we will then pivot back to 8000,” Bombardier says.

The 8000 would benefit from the same performance improvements that spurred the 7000-to-7500 name change, executives say, hinting that the 8000 could be remarketed as the 8500.

“Everything we’ve learned on the 7500 will accrue to the next airplane,” says Nolan. “We have got to have a rethink of exactly what the 8000, or the 8500, is going to look like.”

Also at EBACE, Bombardier revealed a package of tweaks to its 3,200nm-range Challenger 350, a 10-passenger jet powered by Honeywell HTF7350 turbofans.

The company has made braking improvements and rudder control modifications that give the 350 up to 1,500nm of additional range when departing from shorter runways, such as those with length of 1,070-1,220m (3,500-4,000ft). The aircraft can now operate from Santa Monica in California, Bombardier says.

The rudder changes affect the rudder’s ability to counter asymmetric thrust should the aircraft lose an engine at take-off. The rudder’s ability to perform that role can limit take-off speeds from shorter runways, which, in turn, limits fuel and thus range, says Mathieu Noel, Bombardier director of product strategy and design.

Bombardier has now given the 350’s rudder improved authority, making it more effective at higher take-off speeds, which allows it to carry more fuel, meaning more range, Noel says. The system is available on new aircraft and for retrofit to in-service 350s

“Through some changes in the flight control system, we are able to increase that speed on the runway while maintaining control of the aircraft, [and] increase, therefore, the take-off weight, and fly farther,” Noel says.

Bombardier is also now offering the 350 with an enhanced-vision equipped head-up display, and has reduced the 350’s cabin nose by 1-2 decibels, Bombardier says. Regulators have also granted the 350 steep-approach certifications.

Find all the latest news, pictures, video and analysis from EBACE 2019 on our dedicated page.

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Bombardier refiles MRJ trade secret lawsuit

Bombardier has dragged Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation America (MACA) back to federal court, refiling a lawsuit alleging theft of trade secrets related to CSeries certification and Global 7000 systems.

The Montreal-based airframer has argued the Mitsubishi Regional Jet programme benefitted from those secrets.

“Bombardier submitted an amended complaint which clarifies the relationship between the defendants and provides additional information on the harm that Bombardier suffered as a result of [Mitsubishi Aircraft’s] unlawful actions,” says Bombardier in a statement to FlightGlobal.

“Bombardier will continue to enforce its rights and ensure that all wrongdoers are held accountable,” it adds.

The refiled suit says the loss of staffers to the MRJ programme delayed certification of both the Global 7000, which Bombardier has since renamed the 7500, and the CSeries, which became the A220 after Bombardier sold majority programme ownership to Airbus in 2018.

“As a result of the actions of defendants…Bombardier’s certification efforts for these aircraft were delayed by several months,” says the suit.

Some 92 former Bombardier staff currently work on the MRJ programme, the manufacturer says in the suit.

Mitsubishi Aircraft did not immediately respond to requests for comment but has previously said it denies wrongdoing and that a lawsuit will not affect MRJ certification.

The case originated in October 2018 when Bombardier sued MACA, its Japan parent Mitsubishi Aircraft, US-based flight-testing company AeroTec and several former Bombardier employees.

Bombardier alleged the former staffers stole trade secrets when leaving Bombardier to take jobs working on the MRJ programme, violating federal and Washington State trade secret laws.

Earlier in April a federal judge tossed Bombardier’s claims against MACA, saying Bombardier failed to prove MACA knew about those secrets.

The judge left in place counts against Mitsubishi Aircraft and gave Bombardier 15 days to refile, which Bombardier did in late April.

The refiled suit argues MACA knew about the trade secrets and that Mitsubishi Aircraft used its corporate structure to shield affiliate MACA from liability. The companies are essentially one and the same, Bombardier alleges.

“[MACA] employees recruited from Bombardier would know or have reason to know and recognise any Bombardier trade secret information being incorporated into MRJ certification,” says the refiled suit.

“The facts of this case plainly show an unlawful misappropriation by [Mitsubishi Aircraft] and the other named defendants of Bombardier trade secrets to advance the certification of the MRJ aircraft”, says Bombardier’s statement to FlightGlobal.

The former Bombardier employees allegedly stole CSeries certification reports related to airspeed indicating and static pressure systems, air temperature indicators and flight-testing data, Bombardier says.

Employees also stole Global 7000 and 8000 secrets related to skew detection systems, Bombardier alleges.

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Bombardier to sell Belfast and Morocco sites

Bombardier has combined its commercial and business aircraft units into a single division called Bombardier Aviation, and will seek to divest its aerostructures businesses in Belfast and Morocco.

The Canadian manufacturer’s chief executive Alain Bellemare describes the organisation overhaul, announced 2 May, as continuation of a turnaround plan and a means to simplify Bombardier’s structure.

“We announced a major organisational change: the consolidation of our aerospace assets in the a single, streamlined and fully integrated Bombardier Aviation business unit,” states Bellemare.

David Coleal, former head of Bombardier’s business aircraft division, will lead Bombardier Aviation.

“Today’s announcement is based on our long-term strategy and vision. It is the culmination of the actions taken since launching our five-year turnaround plan in 2015,” Bellemare adds. “Bombardier is a much stronger company today.”

The turnaround plan calls for Bombardier to return to break-even performance and has led the company to sell majority ownership of the CSeries (now called the A220) to Airbus. Bombardier has also signed a deal to sell the Q400 turboprop.

The company now expects to close the Q400 sale to Longview Aviation Capital, owner of Viking Air, in “mid-year”, says Bellemare.

“Our strategy path forward is now clearer than ever. Bombardier will be a focused company and a stronger story,” he asserts.

Bombardier says the Belfast and Morocco aerospace units represent about half of Bombardier’s aerostructures business, which generated $2 billion in 2018 revenue.

Products made at Bombardier’s Belfast site, formerly a Shorts facility, include A220 wings.

“Belfast is a great business… and they are supporting Airbus and also Bombardier,” Bellemare says. “We will be working with Airbus to find the next best potential buyer for this business. We have a lot at stake here.”

Referencing the plan for the aerostructures business, he adds: “We want to focus on business aircraft and rail, so therefore we decided it would be better for someone else to drive this.”

The company will retain its aerostructures sites in Montreal, Mexico, and Red Oak, Texas.

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Who will buy Bombardier Belfast?

News that Bombardier plans to divest its Belfast aerostructures plant, along with a smaller operation in Morocco, as it consolidates its remaining aerospace activities into Bombardier Aviation, was not surprising.

Since the airframer sold the CSeries to Airbus and the Q400 to fellow Canadian outfit Viking Air, aerostructures had appeared an odd fit, and it made little sense to run it and the rump of the commercial aircraft division as separate businesses.

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Instead, Bombardier has reverted to its structure of a few years back, with two main arms: aircraft and ground transportation – the former centred on its ­successful business aviation activities.

The question is what happens now to Belfast and Morocco? Bombardier’s claim that “these are great businesses with ­tremendous capabilities” is more than sales hype. The Northern Ireland plant in particular is a prize asset – it has a decades-old engineering heritage in aircraft manufacturing and builds the wings for the Airbus A220 (formerly the CSeries) with proprietary composite know-how.

GKN and Spirit AeroSystems – the world’s biggest aerostructures specialists – have been suggested as potential suitors. Both might be tempted for very different reasons. But a bid from Airbus itself ­cannot be discounted.

Owning the Belfast plant would secure not only A220 wing production, but ­enhance the UK’s status as the “country of excellence” for Airbus wing production, as well as giving the airframer vital expertise for the design of a composite-winged successor to the A320neo family.

Belfast employees have endured a bumpy journey since Bombardier rescued the bankrupt Shorts plant 30 years ago, but they should feel reasonably secure about their future.

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