Bombardier Inc. is talking to China Express Airlines about a possible order for the CSeries jetliner after selling it CRJ regional jets, said the head of the Montreal-based company’s aerospace unit.
China Express agreed to buy three CRJ900 jets in a firm order valued at $134 million, Bombardier said today in a statement. Options and conditional agreements could result in the carrier buying another 13 of the 90-seat planes, which would boost the deal’s value to $733 million, Bombardier said.
“We’re talking to many different customers” about the CSeries, Guy Hachey, Bombardier Aerospace’s chief operating officer, said today in Montreal after a speech. China Express “is one of them, yes, but right now they are establishing a regional network so we are supporting them. They bought quite a few of our aircraft so far.”
Bombardier is still 123 orders short of a target for 300 firm orders of the CSeries by the time the aircraft enters service in about a year. The first flight was delayed more than eight months while program costs rose to $3.9 billion, 15 percent more than projected.
While Bombardier is in “advanced” talks with “many” potential customers amid a “resurgence” in activity in recent weeks, several would-be buyers are hesitant to place orders until they see the results from test flights, Hachey said.
“A lot of the customers are wanting to see the data points coming from our flight-testing program,” he said. “A lot of people are still sitting on the sidelines to see when the aircraft will be ready.”
Bombardier says the CSeries planes, which will feature the new geared turbofan engine from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney, will be about one-fourth as noisy as existing jets. The company said Oct. 31 it will need months to assess performance data on the CSeries after conducting the plane’s first flight Sept. 16. Bombardier is planning about 2,400 hours of flight tests on the jet.
Entry into service of the CSeries is still planned for September 2014, Hachey said, adding that the schedule will be reassessed in the coming months.
“We want to see how Flight Test Vehicle No. 2 is going to be doing,” Hachey said. “Then we’ll be coming back and at the right time, discussing what will happen. Right now we’re still targeting a 12-month flight test program. We haven’t moved away from that.”
Bombardier will shift some test flights to its Wichita, Kansas, facilities due to inclement weather in Quebec, Hachey said.
“It was always planned to have one of the CSeries in Wichita,” he said. “It could happen faster. It depends on the weather here. We haven’t been very lucky in the last few weeks unfortunately. It’s been colder and more snowy, with low ceilings, than usually at this time of the year.”
Bombardier expects Canada’s Porter Airlines Inc. to succeed in a bid to convince the Toronto City Council of approving a runway extension and lifting a ban on jets at Billy Bishop airport, Hachey said. A Porter agreement to buy as many as 30 CSeries jets depends on the council’s approval of the extension.
“We don’t want to lose any order,” Hachey said when asked about Porter. “I don’t expect to lose the Porter order. I don’t think Porter will fail in what they are trying to do. But we’d replace them if we lose them.”