Mirabel Prepares To Build The 1945th And Final CRJ

The final Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) is rolling off the assembly line in Mirabel. Between 1992 and the present day, the CRJ has been a familiar sight coming out of the workshops at the airport.  However, Japan’s Mitsubishi finalized the purchase of the Bombardier CRJ program mid-year and is integrating it into the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) Spacejet program.

The final aircraft from the CRJ program is rolling off the assembly line in Mirabel. Photo: Bombardier

Last drinks for the Bombardier CRJ program

The CRJ family is made up of the CRJ100, 200, 440, 550, 700, 900, and 1000 models. The final CRJ is a significant milestone for Bombardier. Having sold the C Series program to Airbus in 2018, and the Q400 turboprop program to De Havilland Aircraft in 2019, Bombardier is no longer manufacturing commercial aircraft. According to Sylvain Larocque in Le Journal de Montreal, this last CRJ to roll off the assembly line is the 1945th CRJ Bombardier has made.

Last year, Bombardier admitted competing against Boeing and Airbus in the commercial jet space was a tall order. Embraer was also aggressively competing in the regional jet market space. Cutting their losses, Bombardier sold the CRJ program to Mitsubishi for US$550 million cash and $200 million in liabilities.

The CRJs were part of a four-decade flirtation with aircraft at Bombardier. The business has its origins in World War II. But they started as a snowmobile maker rather than an aircraft manufacturer. Bombardier branched out into aircraft in the mid-1980s, building water bombers and buying out Canadair and Short Brothers.

One of Bombardier’s earlier CRJ types, the CRJ200. Photo: Bombardier

From snowmobiles to regional jets

This was Bombardier’s springboard into the commercial airline manufacturing business. Bombardier had inherited the Challenger 600 aircraft type when they bought Canadair and used that as the platform to develop the CRJs. They started with CRJ100 and CRJ200s, small 50 seat jets that went into service with multiple airlines, including Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines. These planes helped establish the regional jet market.

In 1997, the larger 70 seat CRJ700 was introduced. Users included American Airlines, Air France, and Alaska Airlines. The CRJ900 was introduced in 2000, followed by the CRJ1000 in 2007.

Bombardier’s own website calls the CRJ series the world’s most successful family of regional jets. But Bombardier’s CRJ program had also incurred losses for several years and was burdened by heavy debt. What kept the program flying was the demand from US airlines. In the United States, scope clauses in labor contracts restrict airlines from operating regional planes with more than 76 seats and a maximum takeoff weight of 86,000 pounds.

However, US airlines are attempting to overturn these scope clauses. Bombardier, which initially had the regional jet market to itself, is also facing stiff competition from Brazilian regional jet manufacturer, Embraer. Going forward, Bombardier is keeping some presence in the aviation space. It intends to keep on building private jets.

The CRJ1000, Bombardier final CRJ type introduced in 2007. Photo: Bombardier

What will Mitsubishi do with the CRJ program?

Meanwhile, Japan’s Mitsubishi is trying to crack the regional jet market. That program is deeply mired in its own problems, including cost overruns, delays, and aircraft too big to crack the US regional jet market. That’s a problem Mitsubishi is attempting to address. But SpaceJet sales remain sluggish. Mitsubishi doesn’t want Bombardier’s CRJ program for the planes, they want to bring in the CRJ customers.

Since the sale was finalized in June, the CRJ program converted to the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) brand. However, Bombardier kept on building the planes they’d previously taken orders for

The 1945th CRJ is going to Endeavour Airlines to operate under the Delta Connect brand. Bombardier will continue to offer after-sales support, repairs, and spare parts to CRJ customers. What it will no longer do is sell them new planes.

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