Bombardier explores link with Aviacor

 - March 8, 2007, 4:35 AM

Bombardier acknowledged in late January that it has held “exploratory discussions” about collaboration in the turboprop market with Russian aircraft maker Aviacor, but it stopped short of confirming reports that it will transfer Q300 turboprop production to the underused factory, now owned by Oleg Deripaska’s Basic Element holding company.

“As part of its globalization strategy, Bombardier continues to seek business opportunities throughout the world,” said the Canadian company in an e-mailed response to AIN. “Aviacor is not involved in any of our aircraft programs but we have had exploratory discussions with Aviacor.”

In fact, similar reports involving Aviacor have surfaced in the past, among the most recent of which identified the Embraer ERJ 145 as a potential platform for a technology transfer. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most powerful and well connected post-Soviet-era oligarchs, in 2002 held talks also with bankruptcy trustees about transferring production of the now-defunct Fairchild Dornier 728 to Samara. Of course, nothing materialized in either case.

One of Bombardier’s slowest selling regional aircraft models, the 50-seat Q300 lost much of its market appeal during the 1990s to 50-seat regional jets, and it suffers to this day from a lack of direct commonality with the larger and more advanced 78-seat Q400. However, with the recent surge in demand for turboprops resulting in large part from fuel price hikes, Bombardier managed to deliver 20 of them last year.

In Russia, meanwhile, the regional turboprop market has yet to emerge from the torpor that descended on the country’s aerospace business with the fall of the Iron Curtain. For its part, Aviacor had hoped to make more use of its license to assemble Ukrainian-designed An-140s, of which it produced just one last year. Most production of the 52-seat turboprop has occurred in Ukraine, by Kharkov’s KSAMC, and Iran, where Isfahan’s HESA builds the IRAN-140 for the local market.

Not part of the new United Aircraft Building Corp., a government initiative that began consolidating most of Russia’s aerospace industry last year, Aviacor appears committed to finding an alternative to the An-140.