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Bombardier delays delivery of its first Learjet 85 to 2014

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 12:31 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, at 6:50 a.m.

Bombardier announced Thursday that it has delayed the first delivery of its new Learjet 85 as it faces challenges involved in developing an all-composite aircraft.

The business jet, which is being developed in Wichita, will now enter service in the summer of 2014.

Entry-into-service had previously been scheduled for later this year.

The program is making solid progress, Bombardier said, and it’s achieved several key milestones.

Company officials said they do not expect the delay to affect work-force levels.

There have been challenges in developing an all-composite airplane, Pierre Beaudoin, Bombardier president and CEO, said in a conference call about the company’s fourth-quarter and year-end financial results.

The company has successfully dealt with several new technology challenges, which affected the timeline, the company said.

“I think we understand very well the work that needs to be done,” Beaudoin said. “This is an all-composite airplane. We had to understand very well the technology to make this aircraft.”

The Learjet 85 is Bombardier’s fastest, largest and longest-range Learjet to date.

It’s also the first business jet with its wing and fuselage built mainly from carbon composite materials.

“The first flight test aircraft is significantly advanced: The complete pressure fuselage, including the nose, aft fuselage and empennage have been joined, the landing gear has been installed and the wing is attached to the fuselage,” the company said in a statement.

When asked whether Bombardier would be interested in buying some of the Hawker Beechcraft lines of business jets, Beaudoin said the company wasn’t interested.

“Absolutely not,” Beaudoin said through an interpreter. “Our products are very competitive, and we don’t need Hawker products. In fact, there’s a reason why they closed down.”

Hawker Beechcraft emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday as the new Beechcraft Corp. The restructured, smaller company has exited the business jet market to concentrate on piston, turboprop, military and after-market business.

Bombardier expects a good market for business jets this year, and its larger family of aircraft has done well.

The market for its smaller, Learjet products, however, continues to be difficult, officials said in the conference call.

Bombardier recorded $4.8 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter, up from $4.3 billion a year ago, although net income for the quarter fell.

The company turned in adjusted net income of $188 million for the quarter, compared to $227 million a year ago.

Revenue and net income for the full year both fell. For the year, Bombardier recorded $16.8 billion in revenue, compared to $18.3 billion for 2011.

Net income totaled $598 million, compared to $837 million.

The company’s order book rose to a record $66.6 billion at the end of December.

Bombardier delivered 59 business aircraft in the quarter, compared to 47 for the same time a year ago.

It delivered 176 business aircraft last year, compared to 161 during 2011, not including deliveries to the company’s fractional ownership program.

This year, it expects to deliver about 190 business and 55 commercial aircraft.

Bombardier took net orders for 343 business aircraft for fiscal 2012, compared to 191 the previous year.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-268-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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