Ten days after effectively taking control of C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP), Airbus has already stamped its mark on the aircraft program by rebranding Bombardier’s CS100 and its larger variant CS300 as the A220-100 and -300, respectively.
The European OEM showcased the aircraft’s new name and colors at a ceremony held at its Henri-Ziegler delivery center, near Toulouse on Tuesday. The aircraft, a C Series flight-test aircraft, was repainted in the UK and will ferry to the Farnborough airshow next week where it will be on display as part of Airbus’s product portfolio. The A220 is only a marketing brand; the aircraft’s official BD500 type certificate remains unchanged.
“Everyone at Airbus has been looking forward to this historic moment. Today, we are thrilled to welcome the A220 to the Airbus family,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus president Commercial Aircraft. “The A220 now enters a new phase in its career with all Airbus’s resources behind it to further its commercial success worldwide.”
Airbus expects to sell a “double-digit” number of the jets this year, said David Dufrenois, the program’s head of sales, while declining to comment about if orders will be announced at Farnborough. CSALP had sold 31 units so far this year, to Latvia’s airBaltic, and 38 aircraft are in service with three operators: launch operator Swiss (23), airBaltic (nine), and Korean Airlines (six). The company has logged orders for 402 A220s. Dufrenois declined to comment on rumors Gulf Air had formally canceled its order for ten -100s.
Former Airbus chief salesman John Leahy once described the C Series as a “cute little airplane,” but the company now sees the aircraft as a worthy complement to its single-aisle family. “We now have full market coverage, in terms of range and [passenger] capacity,” said Antonio Da Costa, head of product marketing. Airbus is offering five single-aisle types to the market, with the A318 notably absent from the list. The A318 is an “on demand” aircraft, executives told AIN.
Airbus does not believe the A220-300 will cannibalize A319 sales. Bob Lange, senior v-p business analysis and market forecast, acknowledged that the aircraft are similar in size but noted the A319 “flies farther, performs better in hot and high airfields, and can carry containerized cargo.” He added, “In addition, several European majors operate the A319, A320, and A321 and they allocate according to demand on that flight. There will be continued demand for the A319. It might not be particularly high, but we can live with that.”
Airbus and CSALP set ambitious goals for the A220. The venture expects global demand for some 7,000 aircraft in the 100- to 150-seat category over the next 20 years and it aims to capture at least half of this market, conceded Da Costa.
Rob Dewar, head of product support and engineering, did not exclude the possibility of moving toward a larger degree of commonality between Airbus’s own A320 series and the A220, for instance by migrating the flight decks, but “the first focus is on the ramp-up, cutting costs, and sales.” The A220 has a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion-based flight deck, which features synthetic vision, something no other Airbus airplane offers (yet). Airbus's jets are equipped with mostly Thales avionics, and an avionics change would be a substantial and expensive undertaking.
Dufrenois said the program’s production needs “double-digit efficiency gains” while pointing out that “any program starts with a high cost base.” Higher volumes will help reduce costs and CSALP has already held discussions with suppliers, he said. “We are very confident we can make it a very successful program,” he stressed.
Bombardier delivered 17 C Series last year. The new venture, in which Airbus holds a 50.1 percent stake, aims to double that figure this year. Executives remained tight-lipped on the 2019 delivery goal, with Da Costa saying only “it will be assessed with Airbus.”