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Bombardier debuts its new Global 6500 jet at EBACE 2018, the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, on May 27, 2018, in Geneva.Bombardier

In a surprise move aimed at improving its competitive position against Gulfstream and other rivals, Bombardier Inc. is launching two new large-cabin luxury jets as it bets on a recovery in business aircraft.

The Canadian plane and train maker has been secretly testing the two jets, which will be known as the Global 5500 and Global 6500 aircraft, since the beginning of the year at its facilities in Wichita, Kan. The company unveiled the existence of the planes at an industry event in Geneva on Sunday evening. It plans to get them into service by the end of next year.

″[There are] a lot of shocked faces … tonight to say the least,” Bombardier spokesman Mark Masluch said by phone from Europe. “We’re hoping that we have a winner here with these two products when we have a full rebound of the market.”

Alain Bellemare, Bombardier’s chief executive, is counting on the Global line of business jets to help drive his five-year turnaround effort as the company cedes control of its C Series commercial airliner to Airbus SE and shifts its focus to luxury aircraft and trains. The company expects its marquee Global 7000 plane, the world’s biggest purpose-built private jet, to help increase its business jet sales by US$3-billion to US$8.5-billion by 2020. Margins on Bombardier’s private jets should range between 8 per cent and 10 per cent by that time, the company estimates.

Adding two new private jet models is something Bombardier needed to bring the overall quality of the Global aircraft portfolio closer to the level of the flagship 7000, Mr. Masluch said. The new planes improve on the existing Global 5000 and 6000 models by offering up to 600 nautical miles of additional range and 13 per cent better fuel burn, according to Bombardier. They also offer better performance when operating in hot weather and high altitude conditions, the manufacturer says.

The interiors of the new jets, meanwhile, will feature many of the high-end finishes to come in the Global 7000. That includes Bombardier’s patented Nuage seat, which luxury journal Robb Report says distinguishes itself particularly with its innovative reclining system. List price for the Global 5500 starts at US$46-million while the 6500 starts at US$56-million.

There is no change to manufacturing sites for the new aircraft and no significant additional capital spending to come beyond what has already been disclosed to the market, Mr. Masluch said. Development costs for the new jets are “already mostly behind us,” he said. The jets will share a production line with the current 5000 and 6000 planes.

“It’s a pretty impressive and necessary response to Gulfstream’s 500/600 line,” Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group aerospace consultancy said of Bombardier’s moves. “It’s also impressive that they’ve been working on it this long while keeping it under wraps. This shows the company is now able to give priority to its business jet unit.”

Manufacturers are hoping new products will rekindle demand for private jets after the worst down-cycle for luxury aircraft since the 1980s. The five major business jet makers plus Boeing Co. and Airbus delivered 113 private jets in the first quarter of 2018, down 5.8 per cent year-over-year, according to a monthly analysis of the market published May 22 by JP Morgan analyst Seth Seifman.

“With used jet inventory levels approaching ever-lower levels, a new bizjet cycle should be upon us – if macro conditions co-operate,” Mr. Seifman said.

Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC will deliver a new engine called Pearl specifically for the new Global planes, Bombardier said Sunday. Certification of the engine from regulatory authorities has already been obtained. The aircraft will also feature a modified wing.

In all, Bombardier will offer six different models in its Global jet family. The Global 7000 is expected to be rechristened as the Global 7500 to maintain consistent marketing as the 500-series of planes are sold as the top-of-the-line products. A Global 8000 will round out the portfolio.

“This is a progressive investment in business jets,” said Chris Murray, an analyst with AltaCorp Capital in Toronto. ”[It allows Bombardier to] maintain a competitive product offering at the higher end of the market, which looks to be the most robust and profitable section of the industry.“

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