By Allison Lampert
MONTREAL, April 9 (Reuters) - Bombardier is taking early steps to revive assembly of its most lucrative business jets after production was halted for weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak, even as the pandemic risks sapping demand for corporate aircraft.
Bombardier will bring some employees back to its Toronto plant on Monday for pre-flight activities to support the resumption of operations there on April 27, company spokeswoman Anna Cristofaro said by email.
"Bombardier continues to take the necessary steps and precautions to safeguard the health of all its employees, and we remain in close contact with public health officials," Cristofaro said.
Bombardier's Toronto plant assembles the company's flagship large-cabin business jets, such as its Global 7500, which is then completed at a company facility in Montreal.
It is unclear when Bombardier would be able to restart its Montreal facilities as Quebec extended the closure of non-essential businesses in the province until May 4.
Cristofaro said the company is evaluating the impact of the Quebec government’s announcement.
Bombardier, which is set to become a "pure play" jetmaker when it completes the sale of its rail division next year to France’s Alstom SA, has a $14.4 billion backlog.
Gulfstream Aerospace, a division of General Dynamics and Embraer SA are still producing business jets in the United States. Textron Aviation in March announced it would furlough 7,000 workers.
Business jet deliveries are expected to fall this year as the pandemic disrupts global travel. The world economy is forecast to decline sharply in 2020, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.
Syed Zaidi, aviation analyst for Ascend by Cirium is forecasting a 25%-50% decline in all new business jet deliveries for 2020, depending on the duration of the pandemic. Zaidi was previously forecasting between 795 to 800 deliveries of new business jets in 2020, compared with 799 deliveries in 2019.
After an initial bump in business jet charter flights as people were repatriated "flight activity has essentially cratered in the U.S.," said aviation analyst Rolland Vincent.
Business jet charter flying was off 25-30% during the first 26 days of March 2020, compared with the same period a year earlier, he said.
Bombardier pulled its 2020 outlook in March and stopped work at most of its Canadian operations until April 26 following government orders to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by Denny Thomas and Grant McCool)