Bombardier Says It’s Ready to Fight as C Series Jet Nears Debut

  • CEO thanks Swiss International for ‘huge leap of faith’
  • Competitors ‘are right to be scared,’ Bellemare says at fete

Bombardier Inc.’s first delivery of its C Series jetliner heats up the battle with Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE, and the Canadian planemaker says it’s ready to rumble.

“A year ago, we weren’t even sure if the program would be here or not,” Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare said Wednesday night at a ceremony in Mirabel, Quebec. “We were asking ourselves if we were going to keep the program. Look at what we have been able to accomplish.”

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss International unit took delivery of a Bombardier CS100 jet Wednesday, the first of 30 that the Zurich-based carrier will receive through 2018. The handoff -- to be followed July 15 by the jet’s commercial debut -- caps a year in which the $5.4 billion program has rebounded from possible extinction.

“This increases the likelihood of follow-on orders, now that the aircraft will be in service shortly,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin wrote Thursday in a note to clients. Bombardier “has a compelling offering.”

The manufacturer has made big strides to demonstrate that the C Series -- despite being more than two years late and $2 billion over budget -- has a long-term future. In the last two months, Bombardier has landed firm orders from Air Canada and Delta Air Lines Inc. and secured $1 billion from Quebec in exchange for a 49.5 percent stake in the program.

Beating Target

Montreal-based Bombardier now has 370 firm orders for both models of the C Series, exceeding a target of 300 before entry into service. Options and letters of intent could spur more than 300 additional orders, and Bellemare said the company is in “active” discussions with several potential buyers, without naming them.

For more coverage of Quebec’s deal with Bombardier, click here.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s decision to invest in the C Series played a crucial role in Bombardier’s success with Air Canada and Delta, Bellemare said Wednesday night to employees, customers, suppliers and government officials at the company’s Mirabel factory.

‘So Scared’

With the C Series in production, Bombardier “will be able to compete with anybody in the world: Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and whoever else wants to come at us. We will be able to fight,” Bellemare said during his 15-minute speech. “All the stuff that you read about our competitors saying bad things about the aircraft is because they’re so scared. And they are right to be scared, because there’s nothing else like this aircraft in the marketplace.”

A spokesman for Boeing declined to comment, while an Embraer SA representative didn’t immediately respond.

“Airbus welcomes competition in the marketplace. We also congratulate Bombardier on what they have accomplished so far,” Mary Anne Greczyn, a spokeswoman for the European planemaker, said by e-mail. “We remember well the challenge of coming up against established products.”

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