Bombardier Inc. is seeing intense interest in its narrow-body CSeries jet and has no plans to fulfill rival Airbus SAS’s prediction that it might abandon the aircraft unless orders increase, an executive said today.
“We are neck-deep in conversations with customers, and we are exactly where we want to be,” said Chet Fuller, who left General Electric Co.’s aviation unit in December to lead Bombardier’s commercial sales and marketing group. “I am busy as all get-out.”
Bombardier, the third-biggest planemaker behind Boeing Co. and Airbus, has 90 firm orders with options to buy 90 more for the CSeries aircraft, scheduled to debut in 2013. The narrowbody plane is designed to compete with smaller versions of the A320 family from Airbus and the 737 from Boeing in the biggest slice of the commercial aerospace market. There are three announced customers for CSeries models, which start at 110 seats.
John Leahy, Airbus’s chief salesman, said last week the business case for CSeries would no longer stand up now that Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, is offering A320 customers more efficient new engines for a version of its narrowbody, called the A320neo. Options for the upgraded jet include the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan that is the sole engine available on the CSeries.
If Bombardier doesn’t win a good crop of orders over the next year, the Montreal-based manufacturer might not stick with the program, Leahy said. Fuller, who declined to discuss specific customers, disagreed.
“Look, Airbus and Boeing have had this space to themselves for two decades,” Fuller said in the interview at Bombardier facilities in Montreal, where the company is based. “You know what? The world deserves choice. We are exactly where we want to be at the intensity and the frequency and where we are in the pipeline.”
Boeing, based in Chicago, has said it will decide whether to put new engines on its existing aircraft later this year and prefers to develop a new narrowbody jet in about 2020.
Bombardier projects that an airline might save $1.82 million a year flying a CSeries plane in North America instead of an Airbus A319, assuming an oil price of $100 a barrel, 2,000 flights a year and no cost for carbon emission and noise fees. Under European rules, which include fee and noise restrictions, the savings increases to $2.4 million a year.
“The industry wants to forget that we’re still about three years prior to” the CSeries entry-into-service date, Fuller said. “The industry wants to forget that the 777, the 737, the A319, the 787 all had about the same order book as we did today,” he said referring to Boeing and Airbus models.
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