Bombardier Commercial Aircraft (BCA), headquartered in Toronto, Canada, made two announcements on December 31, 2015.
The first news release stated that BCA delivered to Ryukyu Air Commuter Co. (RAC) that day “the very first Q400 cargo-combi aircraft,” one of five ordered by the Naha-based carrier, which is the launch customer for the new variant of the Q400 series. This “modern, 21st-century turboprop” offers up to 4,082 kilograms of cargo capacity, up to 32 cubic meters cargo volume, while it can accommodate 50 passengers, according to BCA. The company said it has recorded firm orders for a total of 547 Q400 aircraft.
The second press release on the New Year’s Eve revealed that Bombardier is making inroads into the Chinese market, where an indigenous commercial aircraft company delivered its first ARJ21 plane in November 2015. China Express Airlines has placed a firm order for 10 CRJ900 regional jets, increasing to 38 the total orders for this model, BCA announced. A significant feature of the CRJ900 is a 5.5% fuel consumption reduction compared to earlier models, the plane maker said.
BCA, however, has clinched fewer than 250 of its “much-delayed C Series planes, The Economist (November 7, 2015) said, adding that it emerged that “Bombardier had tried unsuccessfully to sell a stake in the C Series project o Airbus. On October 29th Bombardier announced that the provincial government of Quebec…would pay $1 billion for a stake of 49.5% in the plane, whose development has so far cost $5.4 billion.”
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. announced on December 24, 2015 that it is now scheduled to deliver its first Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) in mid-2018 instead of first quarter of 2017. The announcement followed the first three successful test flights in November 2015.
Delay is nothing unusual in the aircraft industry. The initial MRJ delivery would take place about 30 months after the test flights, compared to 18 months for the E190 from Brazil’s Embraer, 23 months for Bombardier’s CRJ900 and 84 months for China’s ARJ21 model.
Back to the Q400 delivery to Ryukyu Air Commuter. RAC was founded in 1985, with Japan Transocean Air Co. (a subsidiary of Japan Airlines) putting up 74.5% of capital and Okinawa prefectural government 5.1%.
RAC President Takashi Irei said that “[W]e are very excited to be the launch operator for the Q400 cargo-combi…[which] offers the ideal platform for the evolution of our service.”
By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo