Bombardier Taps Budding Mideast RJ Market

 - March 24, 2008, 6:25 AM

Bombardier Regional Aircraft’s Middle East sales force saw years of persistence bear fruit this month as the company landed a firm order for six CRJ900s from the Government of Iraq and another for eight CRJ700s from Yemen’s Felix Airways.

The Iraqi deal marks a breakthrough in the country’s effort to rebuild its civilian airline. Bombardier was careful, however, to say that the contract came from the government of Iraq, and not Iraqi Airways. In 2004, a British court awarded Kuwait $1.2 billion in compensation for Iraqi Airways’ theft of 10 aircraft and associated spare parts from Kuwait Airways during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. To this day Kuwait continues its attempts to collect on the judgment and could attempt to block any transfer of funds for aircraft purchases until it gets paid.

Thankfully for Bombardier, the deal with Felix Airways should prove less thorny. A new subsidiary of Yemeni flag carrier Yemenia, Sana’a-based Felix Airways plans to launch operations later this year with an $80 million capital base provided by private investors and Yemenia, 51-percent owned by the Yemeni government and 49 percent by Saudi Arabia. Valued at $276 million at list prices, the contract for the eight 70-seat jets includes options on another three.

Yet another contract to come from a Middle East customer this month went to Embraer, which saw Lebanon’s M1 Travel convert options on three E190s, raising its firm order total for the type to five. Embraer plans to begin delivering the 100-seat jets next year.