Bombardier sold its commercial plane division and will now focus solely on private jets — here's what went wrong

tpallini@businessinsider.com (Thomas Pallini)
·7 min read
Social Distancing on American and Delta
Flying on a Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

  • Mitsubishi and Bombardier completed a sale of the popular CRJ aircraft line in June, with all aircraft being rebranded under Mitsubishi overnight.

  • The sale is the latest in a recent string of high-profile Bombardier divestments from commercial aviation that can be traced back to its sale of the CSeries program to Airbus.

  • Bombardier now has no commercial planes in its stable, focusing mainly on business jets and trains moving forward. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Meet the new regional jet, it's exactly the same as the old regional jet. 

To many Americans, Mitsubishi is perhaps most well-known for its cars and electronics. But on June 1, thousands of Americans technically took to the skies on Mitsubishi aircraft without knowing it and have been doing so every day since. 

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Canada's Bombardier inked a deal in 2019 that would see the Japanese firm acquire the Canadair Regional Jet program for $550 million in cash and around $200 million in liabilities, according to the Canadian manufacturer. June 1 marked the closing date of that deal, at which point all of Bombardier's Canadair Regional Jet aircraft became Mitsubishi Regional Jet aircraft.

Passengers flying on the newly-renamed jets wouldn't likely notice any difference, as I didn't when I flew on my first Mitsubishi Regional Jet on June 2.

But June 1 wasn't the first time passengers boarded an aircraft program was developed, built, and marketed by the Bombardier only to be sold off to a competitor. In fact, it's at least the third time in five years as Bombardier has been steadily selling off even its most popular aircraft lines, leading to the end of the Bombardier Commercial Aircraft division of the company, despite the groundbreaking aircraft that it has produced.

Take a look at the devolution of Bombardier.

Bombardier as a company dates back to World War II. Unlike rival aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed, Bombardier wasn't building bombers and fighters during the war, it was building snowmobiles.

Bombardier Snowmobile
A Bombardier snowmobile.

Boris Spremo/Toronto Star/Getty

Source: Bombardier

It wasn't until the 1980s when Bombardier expanded into aviation, acquiring manufacturers Canadair – known for its water bombers – in 1986...

Canadair CL-415
A Canadair CL-415 aircraft.

Gérard SIOEN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Source: Bombardier

And Short Brothers in 1989.

Short Brothers S30
A Short Brothers S30 plane.

SSPL/Getty

Source: Bombardier

After acquiring Canadair, Bombardier launched a new aircraft product line with the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet program, or CRJ for short.

Bombardier CRJ 200
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Yuri Smityuk/TASS/Getty

Source: FlightGlobal

The CRJ program began in 1989 to provide airlines with 50-100-seat jet aircraft and marked the Canadian manufacturer's entry into the world of jet airliners.

United Express Bombardier CRJ 200
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Source: FlightGlobal

The jet was built off of the Canadair Challenger 600 series aircraft, which was acquired in the deal with Canadair.

Bombardier CL-600-2B19 Challenger 850
A Bombardier Challenger private jet.

Dragunov1981 / Getty Images

It started with the 50-seat CRJ100 and CRJ200 aircraft that became widely popular with regional airlines around the world.

American Airlines Bombardier CRJ
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

AP

Among its current users in the US are the regional arms of Delta Air Lines...

Delta Air Lines CRJ 200
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty

...and United Airlines.

United Airlines Bombardier CRJ 200
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Robert Alexander/Getty

Bombardier expanded the line in 1997 to include the CRJ700.

United Express Bombardier CRJ 700
A Bombardier CRJ700 plane.

Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Source: Bombardier

The 70-seat aircraft enjoyed similarly global popularity with users as American Airlines...

American Eagle Bombardier CRJ
A Bombardier CRJ700 plane.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Alaska Airlines...

Alaska Airlines Bombardier CRJ 700
A Bombardier CRJ700 plane.

Robert Alexander/Getty

And Air France.

Air France Hop! Bombardier CRJ 700
A Bombardier CRJ700 plane.

FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty

The product line continued with the CRJ900 in 2000...

Lufthansa Bombardier CRJ 900
A Bombardier CRJ900 plane.

Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance/Getty

Source: Bombardier

...and the CRJ1000 in 2007.

Iberia Bombardier CRJ 1000
A Bombardier CRJ1000 plane.

Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Source: Bombardier

The entire product line could be found flying on every populated continent with Bombardier establishing itself a popular producer of regional jets, rivaling Brazil's Embraer.

United Express Bombardier CRJ 200
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Hundreds of each type were sold and built, earning the title of "world's most successful regional aircraft program," according to Bombardier.

American Airlines Eagle CRJ
A Bombardier CRJ200 plane.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Source: Bombardier

The jets proved to be ever-popular with American regional airlines, especially as Bombardier airframe and cabin improvement to later models called CRJ NextGen.

Air France Bombardier CRJ 1000
A Bombardier CRJ NextGen plane.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty

Source: Bombardier

In recent years, however, the CRJ product line became a loss-maker and the company was sinking money into a new endeavor, the Bombardier CSeries.

Bombardier CSeries.
A Bombardier CSeries aircraft.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Source: Reuters

The project nearly bankrupted the company and Bombardier couldn't keep up with Airbus after the European manufacturer bought a majority stake in the program for a dollar and renamed it the Airbus A220.

Airbus A220
An Airbus A220 aircraft.

Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Source: Forbes

Read More: JetBlue founder David Neeleman's new airline will fly the Airbus A220, the controversial plane Boeing tried to keep out of the US

A trade dispute by Boeing following a major sale to Delta and the possibility of impending tariffs threatened the viability of the CSeries in the all-important US market.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A220
An Airbus A220 aircraft.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty

Airbus stepped in to take control of the program and build the jets in the US to avoid potential tariffs.

FILE PHOTO: Employees work on an Airbus A220-300 at the Airbus facility in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada February 20, 2020.  REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo
An Airbus A220 aircraft.

Reuters

Read More: Airbus just opened its A220 factory in Alabama that was originally intended to help avoid US tariffs on the plane, and JetBlue will be the first customer

Though the tariffs were eventually overruled, Airbus remained in control of the program.

Airbus A220
An Airbus A220 aircraft.

REGIS DUVIGNAU/Reuters

The cost of staying on eventually became too much for Bombardier with the manufacturer completely divesting from the program in 2020 following nearly two decades of production.

Bombardier CSeries
A Bombardier CSeries aircraft.

CLODAGH KILCOYNE/Reuters

Source: Bombardier

The year prior, Bombardier had sold its turboprop division to Longview Aviation Capital Corp.

de Havilland Dash 8
Dash 8 turboprop aircraft.

aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group/Getty

Source: Viking Ar

The flagship of that production line was the Dash 8 Q400, the only remaining turboprop in the program still being built.

Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 Dash 8
A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The 2019 sale of the CRJ and 2020 sale of the A220 made it clear that commercial aircraft was not where it wanted to be anymore, ending a three-decade run.

Bombardier CSeries
A Bombardier CSeries aircraft.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Mitsubishi doesn't intend to overhaul or ramp up production of the CRJ. Rather, it bought the product line to help an aircraft of its own, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, also known as the SpaceJet.

Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ Farnborough Air Show 2018
A Mitsubishi Regional Jet or SpaceJet.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Source: Reuters

Delays, poor market assumptions, and cost overruns have marred the program but Mitsubishi views purchasing the CRJ program as a way to access Bombardier's customer base and push the new plane.

Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ Farnborough 2018
A Mitsubishi Regional Jet or SpaceJet.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Source: Reuters

With all of its commercial aircraft products sold, Bombardier will focus on its business jet line, with lines currently in production including the Challenger...

Bombardier Challenger 350 from the NetJets fleet 3
A Bombardier Challenger 350.

Marcin Walków / Business Insider Polska

LearJet...

Bombardier LearJet 75
A LearJet 75.

Leon Neal/Getty

and Global.

Bombardier Global 7500
A Bombardier Global 7500.

Aviatrade

While the LearJet may be on its last legs, with the LearJet 85 program canceled, the Challenger and Global are still going strong.

Bombardier Global 5500
A Bombardier Global 5500.

Bombardier

The Global 7500 is the new flagship boasting the longest range and fastest speed of any other Bombardier business jet.

Bombardier Global 7500
A Bombardier Global 7500.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Read More: Private jet industry CEOs say 2 new planes coming out soon will change the business forever. See inside the Gulfstream G700 and Bombardier Global 7500.

And the Challenger 650 and 350 are among the latest additions to the popular product line that’s been in production for over 40 years.

Bombardier Challenger 350
A Bombardier Challenger 350.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty

Bombardier was also in talks with Textron Aviation to sell its business jet line but was able to prevent off-loading that division by selling another.

Bombardier Global Express
A Bombardier Global Express.

Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Source: Wall Street Journal and FlightGlobal

To focus on business jets, Bombardier is selling its train division to France's Alstom.

Long Island Rail Road Bombardier trains
The Long Island Rail Road's Bombardier trains

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Source: FlightGlobal

Bombardier has proved highly capable in the sector with recent advances in the Global program and will continue its long-standing rivalry with Gulfstream and Dassault.

Luxaviation Europe Bombardier Global 5500
A Bombardier Global 5500 aircraft.

Niclas von Planta/Luxaviation Europe

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