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Cessna, Bombardier Targets Mideast With Business Jets

Cessna, the Textron Inc. unit that makes the world’s fastest business jet, said the Middle East is set to be among the first markets to recover as customers from Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia order more aircraft.

“Egypt has been one of the most successful markets overall from a aircraft sales point, and we also expect more sales activity in Saudi Arabia,” Trevor Esling, vice president for international sales at Cessna, said at a press conference at the Middle East Business Aviation air show in Dubai today. Oil companies based in Iraq are also showing more interest, he said.

Bombardier Inc., maker of the Global 5000 and Global Express XRS large business jet, also said today that the Middle East is a “critical region,” and one where the effects of a global economic downturn are relatively limited. The maker of the Learjet this week opened a regional office in Dubai.

Optimism about aircraft sales in the Middle East comes as both planemakers struggle with a slump in the wider market that’s expected to last three years. Global deliveries will probably fall to 675 to 700 planes in 2010, and stay below 700 next year, down from 849 in 2009, according to a market survey by cockpit- instrument maker Honeywell International Inc.

Cessna plans to eliminate 700 jobs, about 8 percent of its workforce, as it pares production to match lower demand. Textron Chief Executive Officer Scott Donnelly predicted in May that earnings at Cessna, which has already cut its workforce by half since 2008 to about 8,400, would bottom out this year.

Bombardier has also cut jobs at its aerospace division, which builds regional planes, though the company has noted signs of recovery.

Signs of Recovery

“If you look at where we are now and where we were last year, there is definitely much more activity,” said Bob Horner, senior vice president of sales for Bombardier’s business jet division.

Bombardier’s been studying leading indicators including the number of charter hours that are flown, how many used business planes are being sold, he said, and the numbers all indicate “that the market is definitely moving to a more positive place and that’s been the case for several months now.”

Cessna is developing the Citation Ten, which Esling said will first fly late next year, with certification and delivery due in 2013. The Citation Ten is a stretched version of the Citation X model, the world’s fastest business jet.

The jet is 15 inches longer and will fly farther and carry more weight than the $22 million, eight-seat Citation X. Cessna supplied about 32 percent of Providence, Rhode Island-based Textron’s revenue last year.


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