100-seat Bombardier Jet is a Go

Bombardier Inc. said Monday that it would go ahead with plans to build a 100-seat airplane, the commercial aircraft maker's largest yet, after winning orders worth more than $1.5 billion for the new jet.

France's Brit Air, Italy's My Way Airlines and an undisclosed carrier placed 38 firm orders for the plane and 23 conditional ones, Montreal-based Bombardier said. Deliveries of the CRJ1000 aircraft will start by 2009.

Bombardier's move follows two years of study on whether to build a plane that seats more than 90 people to compete with Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, also known as Embraer, which already has a larger jet.

Bombardier, the world's third-largest commercial aircraft maker, has twice delayed plans for the even-bigger C Series plane after failing to win orders from airline customers.

"This is a product they had to launch," Benoit Poirier, an analyst with Desjardins Securities in Montreal, said.

"Embraer's 100-seat jet has had great success, so Bombardier had to do something. This is great news."

Including the 38 orders announced Monday, the company expects to sell at least 400 units of the plane over the next 20 years, Bombardier Aerospace President Pierre Beaudoin said.

"It is a niche product, like every derivative," Beaudoin said Monday during a conference call. "When you do a derivative of a plane for the third time, you tend to have a niche. But at 400 units, it's a good opportunity for us."

The CRJ1000 is an extended version of the Challenger business jet, which initially fit as many as 50 people and was stretched to carry 90. The model will have a list price of about $41 million, company spokesman Marc Holloran said Monday.

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