Bombardier president committed to business jets

PARIS — Bombardier is "absolutely committed" to its Learjet segment of the market, Bombardier Aerospace president and COO Guy Hachey said in an interview before the Paris Air Show opened.

"There should be no concern," Hachey said.

During the downturn, the market held up the best for its Global business jets, although prices were down, followed by its Challenger segment, which "took a beating." But like other manufacturers of small and midsize business jets, the company saw that end of the market affected the most.

The Learjet market has stabilized but it hasn't yet picked up. Production has held at a "reasonable level, but the pie is smaller," Hachey said.

"Long term, we're not concerned with that segment," he said. "We feel really good that Learjet will be a very solid brand for us in the medium and long-term."

That's evidenced by its investment in the Learjet 85 under development. The program is going well and on track for first delivery in 2013, he said.

Orders have stayed "very, very solid," he said. "We're not concerned with orders."

He declined to say how many orders the company has taken for the Learjet 85. Nine months ago, the company said it had taken 60 orders for the plane.

"It's more than that," Hachey said.

The first expansion to take on the plane has been completed in Wichita, he said. The current building wasn't high enough or wide enough to accommodate it.

Construction will begin this fall on a new delivery center and paint shop, he said.

As manufacturers do with any new program, the company must work through issues on the new aircraft, which is made from composites, Hachey said.

"We're seeing our way through it," he said.

The biggest challenge has been how to take composite manufacturing from major structures to a full-scale aircraft, at high volumes, Hachey said.

Bombardier also continues to evaluate its Learjet 45 and 60 aircraft.

He expects the company to refresh the aircraft in the future.

Hachey also gave his view of the competition for Learjet products.

"I think Embraer is going to be a formidable competitor," he said. The cost base for the Phenom 100 and 300 aircraft is good.

Cessna is a great company going through tough times.

"I think they'll rebuild," he said. "We expect them to be strong again."

Hawker Beechcraft is facing a "big challenge" as it restructures its business, he said.

Activity at the recent European Business Aircraft Convention and Exhibition was good, compared to the last two years.

"This year, we were very busy," Hachey said.

Hachey said he's hopeful the Paris Air Show will continue that momentum.

The show is important, he said.

"It's where all the stakeholders meet," he said. It brings customers, suppliers, governments and the media where companies get to tell their stories.

"It's a great venue for us to do a lot in a short period of time," Hachey said.