* Continues to aim for late-2013 launch -Beaudoin
* C-Series threatens other aircraft makers, he says
By Liana B. Baker and Allison Martell
NEW YORK, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc’s chief executive on Thursday said orders for the Canadian aircraft maker’s C-Series regional jet have been “as good as we want and need” and that sceptics were wrong to disparage the launch.
Speaking at an aviation industry event in New York, CEO Pierre Beaudoin called out “naysayers” of the C-series program in which the company has invested $3 billion to build its biggest aircraft yet.
As an audience of airline executives sat around tables decorated with scale models of C-series planes, Beaudoin addressed concerns that Bombardier may have to push back the date it would start delivery.
“As of today, we continue to drive for first delivery at the end of 2013,” he said.
Speaking to Reuters after the event, Beaudoin said he did not want to minimize the task.
“I don’t want to send a message that it won’t be delivered on time. I feel it will be,” he said. “If you think of what we have to do, it’s very complex. I don’t want to (say) that it is easy and it will get done without any challenges.”
The C-series competes directly with smaller regional planes built by industry giants Airbus and Boeing Co.
Beaudoin said the company’s progress in booking C-Series orders should be compared with those for similarly sized Boeing and Airbus models.
“When you compare apples to apples, we have outsold competitors in the below 150-seat category and our order trajectory is as good as we want and need it to be,” he said.
Orders for the C-series got off to a slow start, with the company coming up empty-handed at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow in Britain. But orders had picked up somewhat by the Paris Airshow a year later.
Beaudoin said Bombardier was now able to show potential customers parts of the aircraft and could soon be able to show the entire plane.
“The airplane is becoming real for us and prospective customers, which makes it easier for them to commit,” he said.
Asked about reports that major C-series customer Republic Airways Holdings is concerned about Bombardier’s order progress, Beaudoin said his team had checked in with Republic, whose subsidiaries include low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines.
“It is a firm order and they are committed to go through with the program and that’s all I can tell you,” he said.
Bombardier said in January it was in talks with WestJet Airlines Ltd about supplying Q400 turboprops for the Canadian airline’s planned 40-plane regional carrier.
Beaudoin said the Q400 would have an advantage in Canada’s tough weather and on speed. “We are well positioned, but we will have to compete and win like anything,” he said.
In July 2011 Bombardier said it would cut some 1,500 jobs at its plant in Derby, central England, after losing am important rail contract to Germany’s Siemens AG.
In December Bombardier won a smaller contract to supply carriages to UK rail operator Southern. But when asked about the plant, Beaudoin did not reveal any plans to hire back workers.
“We have no intention of closing the plants in Derby. But we create work when we have work,” he said. “We’ve had some good contracts recently and it’s a contracts business so it will stay busy when we have work.”