Airbus, Bombardier End CSeries Talks

 - October 7, 2015, 9:42 AM
The CSeries flight test program has now logged more than 2,300 hours. (Photo: Bombardier)

Airbus and Bombardier have each confirmed that the two companies had explored “certain business opportunities” together but have since ended talks following a report by Reuters that Bombardier had offered a majority stake in the CSeries to the European airframer. Both companies said they wouldn’t comment further, but Bombardier noted that it would continue to explore “initiatives” such as a possible participation in industry consolidation.

The apparent effort to put the CSeries on surer fiscal footing belies Bombardier’s past efforts to dismiss suggestions that it didn’t control sufficient resources to overcome sluggish sales of the airplane and a two-year delay to certification, now scheduled for late this year. Bombardier still hasn’t reached its target of selling 300 of the narrowbodies before certification.  A cash shortfall resulting from cost overages and a paucity of order deposits has prompted it to raise $3 billion in debt and equity this year and announce plans to sell part of its train business to further boost its balance sheet.

Having drawn firm orders for 242 examples, the CSeries has actually outsold the A319 and Boeing 737 Max 7—the smallest members of the re-engined narrowbody families whose core products have nevertheless drawn orders for several thousand units. However, questions about the overall size of the market Bombardier has targeted with the CSeries persist given the cool market reception it and its direct competitors have so far experienced.

Although Bombardier still expects to gain certification by the end of this year, it has given itself a substantial time buffer to ensure it doesn’t miss yet another entry-into-service goal, setting a first-half 2016 target for EIS by launch customer Swiss International Airlines.

The cautious approach would seem warranted, as potential customers exhibit what Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Fred Cromer called a “wait-and-see attitude” until certification authorities issue their approvals. “The general sentiment is that everyone wants us to get it right up front,” said Cromer during an interview with AIN in late spring. “We are now proving that to be the case considering what we’re now seeing with the impressive performance—we’re building that market confidence.”

By late August the CS100 had completed more than 80 percent of its flight testing, collecting some 2,250 hours of flight testing with six airplanes. By September 10 the program had finished all noise performance testing, which, according to Bombardier, validated claims that the GTF-powered jet would prove the quietest airplane in its class. Soon afterward, the first production CS100 began function and reliability testing, signaling the start of the final flight-testing phase.

Earlier this year, Bombardier announced an increase in the CSeries’ maximum range, from 2,950 nautical miles to 3,300 nautical miles.