Editor’s Comment: Bombardier’s big bombshell

LARA editor Mark Thomas summarises the latest happenings across the low-fare and regional aviation industry.

The undoubted big news in recent days was the revelation by Bombardier that it will, subject to regulatory approvals, sell off its Dash 8 (Q Series) turboprop programme and the revered de Havilland name and trademark to the parent company of its compatriot Viking Air.

The US$300 million sale of the Dash 8 and all the worldwide product support and aftermarket business (covering some 1,000 aircraft) was something of a surprise, although many believed that following the sale by Bombardier of the production factory at Downsview in Ontario earlier this year, the writing was on the wall for the turboprop programme.

However, despite the initial dismay in some Canadian quarters – no one can pretend a corporate restructuring process that will cost 5,000 jobs is good news – there are as always some positives that will emerge out of this transaction if it proceeds to its conclusion in the latter half of next year.

For Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, which earlier this year of course closed its C Series handover to Airbus, it allows it to turn its full attention upon its CRJ programme and build upon the early encouraging momentum that aircraft type has received following the reinvigoration of the regional jet’s cabins with the impressive and well-received Atmosphere upgrade. Let’s not forget the reliable if ageing CRJ still remains scope compliant in the US, and its larger versions, the CRJ900s and 1000s, are still doing quiet but steady business in Europe too despite the younger competition.

Interestingly, it did also admit it would “explore strategic options” for the programme, which obviously hints that it is not averse to engaging in potentially another deal similar perhaps to its C Series actions. That does not necessarily mean Airbus either.

For Viking, which has amongst its proven portfolio the 19-seat Twin Otter, this is a deal that will take it to another level as the largest commercial turboprop manufacturer in North America. It will also give the Q400 programme extra focus from its new owner at a crucial time in its life, with Bombardier having already started to make inroads with the turboprop in its higher-density 86 and 90-seater versions, largely in the booming Asian market.

It’s also rather a neat and tidy way, especially for the AvGeeks out there among us, to see the entire de Havilland product line reunited under the same banner once again for the first time in decades.

It has a certain synergy about it, and one not based entirely on sentimentality, but rather on the very real opportunities that now lie ahead for the historic de Havilland brand and the Q Series following this deal.


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