Bombardier enters airline market with single-aisle C Series

 - January 30, 2007, 5:06 AM

Bombardier’s newly constituted board of directors last month gave approval to the company’s commercial airplane division to offer the C Series line of single-aisle jets to potential customers, marking the start of the company’s foray into the major airline market. The new division, led by former Boeing executive Gary Scott, must now demonstrate that it can seize enough business for single-aisle jets from a market long dominated by Boeing and Airbus.

The company has not decided on the location of a planned $200 million assembly site but has narrowed the search to the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
“In the C Series status report presented to board members, Bombardier Aerospace demon- strated the significant progress made in the evaluation of the aircraft configuration and performance, the strong market interest for the C Series as well as the overall business plan,” said Bombardier Aerospace president and COO Pierre Beaudoin. “We will now offer sales proposals to potential customers and finalize sales and partnership commitments before returning to the board to request program launch and recommend the final assembly site location.”

The smaller member of the C Series family, called the C110, would carry between 110- and 115 seats, while the larger member, the C130, would hold as many as 135. A short-range version of each would fly roughly 1,800 nm; planned transcontinental-range variants would fly as far as 3,000 nm. Originally hoping to use a 146-inch-wide cabin, the engineering team had to settle for a width of 141 inches in the interest of weight and performance. Still, said Scott, cabin comfort and overhead bin space would outclass those of any airplane on the single-aisle market.

Deciding against an all-composite fuselage, designers will derive about half of the targeted 15-percent direct operating cost savings from engines under study by IAE and CFM. Under current plans, composites would account for 20 percent of the weight, appearing in part of the center and rear fuselages, tailcone, empennage and wings.

Size specifications include an overall length of 114.66 feet for the C110 and 125.25 feet for the C130. Estimates for the standard-range C110 show an mtow of 120,600 pounds, while figures for the extended-range version specify an mtow of 133,200 pounds. The standard C130 would take off at a maximum weight of 131,800 pounds, while the C130ER’s mtow reaches 146,000 pounds. Designs for the airplanes’ standard interior configuration include a seven-foot-high ceiling, three-by-two seating and forward and aft galleys and lavatories.

The development schedule shows the end of the airplanes’ joint development phase sometime next year, conclusion of the detailed design phase in 2007, first flight in 2008 and entry into service in 2010. Of course, the decision about which airplane goes first–and whether or not the project happens at all–lies with the market. “If you look at what’s serving this market segment today, it’s downsized 737s and downsized Airbus products, or an upsized regional aircraft like the Embraer [195],” said Scott.

Of course, the C Series has its detractors, and predictably, Embraer executives have leveled some of the most damning criticism. “When you talk about a niche of 110 to 135 seats, this is just not real; it is not there,” said Embraer commercial v-p Fred Curado.

The Embraer v-p also took issue with Scott’s assertion that the largest Brazilian jets pose little threat to the smallest C Series airplane. “By bringing a family into this market–if they ever do–the 110-seater will compete head-to-head with the [Embraer] 190 and 195. There’s no question about it.”