Bombardier lands major C Series order

 - March 31, 2010, 6:48 AM

Bombardier secured a long-anticipated North American launch customer for its new C Series airliners in late February, when Indianapolis-based Republic Airways placed a firm order for 40 CS300s. The purchase contract, which also includes options for another 40 CS300s, calls for deliveries to start in the second quarter of 2015. Republic has chosen a single-class, 138-passenger cabin configuration, featuring 25 so-called stretch seats. The larger of the two C Series models, the CS300 can hold as many as 145 passengers, assuming a seat pitch of 30 inches.

Based on the list price for the CS300, Bombardier places the value of the firm order at $3.06 billion. If Republic exercises all its options, the value could increase to $6.34 billion, according to the manufacturer.

Speaking with AIN on the day of the announcement, Bombardier vice president of commercial aircraft programs Ben Boehm emphasized the importance of maintaining discipline in the face of external pressure to close a deal. Last fall Bombardier executives told reporters that the company expected a new C Series order by the end of the fiscal year, meaning by January 31. When that date passed without word of a contract, skeptics jumped at the chance to further question the commercial viability of the offering. Unfazed, Bombardier and Republic took as much time as they needed to reach an agreement with which each could feel satisfied.

“You’re building a relationship with a customer that’s going to last twenty, twenty-five years,” said Boehm. “You’re not about to rush it just because of an artificial date like a fiscal year-end.”

Of course, the C Series still has time to collect a respectable order total before the first production example leaves the new factory now under construction in Mirabel, Canada, specifically for the new airliner, in late 2013. Since launching the 110- to 145-seat C Series at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2008, Bombardier has recorded firm orders for a total of 90 aircraft. An order from Deutsche Lufthansa accounts for 30 CS100s and a firm commitment from Lease Corporation International Group (LCI) accounts for 17 CS300s and three CS100s. Although plans call for certification of the smaller airplane first, in the second half of 2013, followed roughly a year later by the CS300, Lufthansa’s Swiss International Airlines subsidiary doesn’t plan to take delivery of its first CS100 until some time in 2014. In fact, according to Bombardier Commercial Airplanes CEO Gary Scott, Swiss most likely won’t fly the airplane in revenue service before another airline takes delivery in the second half of 2013.

“Right now, especially in Europe now that the measurement phase for emissions trading and carbon capping has started, you’re starting to see a lot of carriers that are realizing how much carbon they are producing every year, and that will determine their caps in 2012, 2013,” said Boehm.

Republic has signed an exclusive 15-year maintenance contract with Pratt & Whitney for the support of the engines expected to account for most of that reduced carbon footprint and much of the operating-cost benefit. Pratt & Whitney has already begun testing the core of the version of the PW1000G destined to power the C Series, said Boehm, and the engine company expects to run the first full engine on a test stand “later this year.”

According to Bombardier, the CS100 will deliver a 16- to 17-percent cash operating cost advantage over the Embraer E195, Airbus A318 or Boeing 737-600 with winglets, while the CS300 offers the same edge over an A319 or 737-700 with winglets. Bombardier advertises a 20-percent fuel burn advantage for the C Series over all those models.