Bombardier: CSeries Outsells in Its Segment

 - April 8, 2014, 7:37 AM
CSeries FTV3 flies for the first time on March 3. (Photo: Bombardier)

Rebuffing descriptions of the CSeries’ sales performance as “sluggish,” Bombardier says it welcomes comparisons between its airplane and those that Boeing and Airbus offer in the 100- to 149-seat market segment. In a recent market analysis, the Canadian airframe maker cites firm order figures for the CSeries of 201 aircraft from 18 customers, compared with 47 from three customers for the Airbus A319neo, 55 from two customers for the Boeing 737-7 Max, and 100 from two customers for the Embraer E190/195 E2. According to Bombardier’s books, the “CSeries dominates the 100- to 149-seat category,” amassing almost half of all the firm orders. “These sales figures speak for themselves,” said Bombardier Commercial Aircraft marketing director Frederic Morais. “We designed our new airplane specifically for that segment and captured 75 percent of the customers and 50 percent of the firm orders today. What we see is a payoff.”

Bombardier forecast deliveries of 6,900 aircraft in the 100- to 149-seat category by 2032 from all manufacturers, while Boeing projects about 24,000 in the much broader narrowbody market of up to 220 seats. “Only Bombardier offers an optimal solution in the [100- to 149-seat] segment,” said Morais, who noted that only 2 percent of Neo sales have come from the smallest Neo-series aircraft available with the new engines and sharklets. “We are not even sure whether they will really succeed with the Neo version of the A319.”

Of Embraer’s largest E-jet, Morais observed that Embraer has decided to enlarge the E195, boosting maximum seating capacity to 132 from 118 for the recently introduced E2 variant. “Embraer clearly decided to make it bigger, recognizing the potential of that segment… the E195 is clearly migrating,” he said. “Everybody has to react to the appearance of the CSeries.”

Morais confirmed that Bombardier has gained authorization to offer a 160-seat CS300 version. Despite a notable increase in passenger numbers, the CS300 will compete with neither the A320 nor the 737 Max 8, the majors’ “centerline” models. Contrary to some reports, Bombardier will not stretch the fuselage, but rather fit more passengers by way of a 28-inch-pitch, mono-class seat configuration, compared with the CS300’s standard capacity of 135 at a 32-inch pitch or 150 at 30 inches.

“This is an extra capability we have with the same fuselage, similar to the recent solution for the Q400 [turboprop],” said Morais, referring to the 29-inch-pitch, 86-seat version recently chosen by Thailand’s Nok Air. Among Russian and CIS airlines, at least one of which has expressed interest in the higher-capacity CS300, Bombardier counts VIM Avia and UTair-Ukraine (a wholly owned subsidiary of Russia’s UTair) as CSeries customers. Both plan to lease their airplanes through Ilyushin-Finance.

Whatever Bombardier has to say about the number of firm orders the CSeries has won so far, it will need to sell more than 200 aircraft to cover its more than $4 billion in development costs. The company wants to sell thousands, not hundreds, of CSeries jets. Plans call for a new assembly line in Mirabel, Quebec, to build 120 aircraft a year; eventually a second line would double the capacity. Construction crews have erected the walls of the new production workshop complex, and Bombardier expects to install all equipment and start operations this summer.

A tour of the Bombardier plant on March 18 offered AIN a chance to evaluate progress since the airframe maker’s release of wide-view camera images on January 16. Four of the ten airframes that once occupied the final assembly shop–namely FTV4, FTV05, P01 and the first CS300 scheduled to fly–remained.

Getting Ready

Getting CS100 test-vehicles ready stands as Bombardier’s highest priority. The fourth flight-test vehicle, completely painted and fitted with its Pratt & Whitney PW1500 geared turbofans, exhibited the highest readiness. According to a Bombardier spokesman, Bombardier planned to fly FTV04 “within weeks, not months.” FTV05 stood close by on its own landing gear, its airframe fully mated but unpainted and without its powerplants. The last of the SC100 prototypes, FTV05 is to be fitted with a complete passenger-cabin interior. Bombardier will use FTV05 as the production specimen for Transport Canada Part 25 certification, as well as for measuring fuel burn and confirming performance in all corners of the flight envelope. A set of seats rested beneath a test rig built for emergency evacuation and fire safety testing. The rig–the first of its kind built by Bombardier–consists of a tube whose diameter nearly matches that of the CSeries fuselage but without cuts for passenger windows.

The first CS300 to fly (S/N 55001) and first deliverable CS100 (P01 and 50006) sat in roughly the same degree of readiness, somewhat lower than that of FTV05. Both on their own undercarriage, their primer-covered airframes were nearly completely mated. P01 had wing consoles attached, but tubing and cabling between the wing and the fuselage remained incomplete and some fairings were missing. Although media reports have identified Sweden’s Malmo Aviation as the first CS100 operator, Bombardier would not confirm the identity of P01’s intended recipient, saying only that “it will be a European airline.”

With the addition of FTV03 in early March, three operable prototypes have entered flight-test. Bombardier expected to reach a major milestone soon with activation of normal mode of the Parker Aerospace-supplied fly-by-wire flight control system. As of late March, it had conducted all flights in “direct mode” (none of the prototypes carries a mechanical back-up), meaning simplified control algorithms. Bombardier prefers to refer to normal mode as “augmented FBW,” in which case the system would follow the comprehensive automatic flight-control algorithms. Despite earlier reports that first application of “augmented FBW” would happen in the so-called systems airplane, or FTV02, in Mirabel the spokesman said Bombardier would more likely use FTV01. The test team uses FVT03 mainly for checking avionics, excluding fly-by-wire, thereby limiting the scope of testing to instruments, sensors and navigation equipment.

At the time of AIN’s visit, Bombardier characterized the flight schedules of FTV02 and FTV03 as rather busy, as they flew back and forth between Mirabel and the company’s Wichita facility “to find the weather.” In all, plans call for the five operable CS100 prototypes to clock 2,400 hours aloft to earn certification.

Meanwhile, Bombardier’s plant in Saint Laurent, with its 4,200-person labor force, serves as the main supplier of mechanically processed parts and assemblies to Mirabel. Workers in Saint Laurent assemble CSeries front fuselages, and in late March three deliverable CS100s and a second CS300 prototype appeared there in various degrees of completion. Production of composite parts uses robots that automatically apply 40 to 45 resin layers on a single large-size airframe part, with skin and force-bearing elements baked together in one of the large autoclaves.

The plant has also housed the CSeries static airframe since October 2012. Plans call for testing to continue for another year-and-a-half, after which time Bombardier will subject it to crash-loading. At Saint-Laurent and Mirabel, Bombardier operates about 100 various test rigs, supplemented by another 150 at vendors.

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