Bombardier mulls executive C Series

 - October 2, 2008, 4:46 AM

Bombardier is taking a hard look at offering an executive conversion of its recently announced C Series single-aisle twinjet to compete with the Embraer Lineage 1000.
“We have been approached by a number of customers who are interested in the C Series as a corporate jet and we are evaluating it,” said Benjamin Boehm, Bombardier’s vice president for commercial aircraft programs. Boehm said any final decision to develop such a variant would be “driven by our customers and our own internal design and development capacity.”

He declined to say when or if Bombardier would decide to offer the aircraft in a corporate configuration; however; the C Series is moving forward. Although the concept had been under investigation for more than a decade and the subject of several false starts, Bombardier did not formally announce the $46.7 million (average  2008 $) aircraft until July. Boehm said the stutter-step was caused by a “misalignment in the timing of the [past] programs and technologies” that did not achieve the results airline customers wanted. “Now we have an airplane with a significantly better engine,” he added.

The airplane will initially be offered to the airlines in two main variants, seating from 100 to 145 with a range up to 2,950 nm, a ceiling of 41,000 feet and a top speed of 0.82 Mach/470 ktas. Power will come from a pair of the new Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofans, with thrust ratings up to 23,300 pounds. When compared to the Embraer 170/190 series, Bombardier claims the new engines will enable the C Series to burn as much as 20 percent less fuel with 20 percent lower CO2 emissions and 50 percent less NOx. Overall, Bombardier says the C Series will attain 15 percent improved cash operating costs versus the competition.

Bombardier plans to further enhance the C Series economies by using “third-generation” aluminum lithium alloy for the fuselage and composite wings, the first commercial aircraft to do so, according to Boehm (although the alloy also will be used on the Airbus A350 and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet).

Compared to standard aircraft aluminum, aluminum lithium weighs one third to one half as much, offers superior corrosion resistance and is more cost-effective than composites for a single-aisle fuselage, said Boehm. It also allows for “standard repair methodology” and “improved field maintenance.” However, Bombardier will use a composite wing on the C Series. It will be designed and manufactured at Bombardier’s Belfast facility. Final aircraft assembly will take place in Montreal at Bombardier-Mirabel.

Boehm said Bombardier is investigating new types of paint for the aluminum lithium fuselage and has not ruled out the possibility of offering all the airplanes in basic white with the customer’s choice of decals.

The aircraft is slated to be fitted with advanced avionics and controls, including fly-by-wire with envelope protection, side-stick controls, large LCD displays and integrated electronic flight bag. It will be Category IIIA-autoland ready. The avionics will be a variation of the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system, currently under development. Boehm claimed the system will “meet and beat what is out there today” by offering superior overall systems integration and better human factors design.

Bombardier already has named a number of other suppliers for the C Series, including C&D Zodiac (cabin seats, fixtures and lighting), Parker Aerospace (fuel and hydraulic systems) and Liebherr (air management, environmental controls and cabin pressurization).

Boehm said negotiations with other suppliers are ongoing, including their “commitments to contributions” to help fund the program.

Bombardier clearly intends to distribute the financial risk for developing the C Series equally among itself, governments and its suppliers. The company announced that it already had “received and accepted” offers of “repayable investments” from the governments of Canada, Quebec, Northern Ireland and the UK.

While the risks are substantial, so could be the rewards. Bombardier forecasts a worldwide demand for 6,300 aircraft in this category worth $250 billion over the next 20 years, and thinks it can capture half the market.

Boehm said development on the program already is well along. “For all intents and purposes the majority of the design is frozen. We are promising configurations and making performance guarantees today,” he said.  More than 400 Bombardier employees are working on the program and Boehm said that number will increase to 1,000 next year.

First flight the C Series is scheduled for 2012, with customer deliveries beginning the following year. Bombardier plans to develop and deliver the shorter 114-foot-long, 100-seat, Model 110 first. “The initial opportunity is for a 100-seat airplane that has the capabilities either to land at London City or fly transcontinental between Miami and Portland, Oregon. It is really the best of both worlds. It provides opportunities to develop new market segments or grow markets that cannot be serviced profitably with a bigger airplane,” Boehm said.

To date, Bombardier has announced only one customer for the C Series. German airline Lufthansa has signed a letter of intent for up to 60 aircraft.