Bombardier Says CSeries First Flight Spurs Order Talks

Bombardier Inc’s. efforts to sell additional CSeries jetliners have progressed since the plane took to the skies for the first time last month, one of the company’s top marketing executives said.

More than 60 aircraft lessors and appraisers attended presentations on the CSeries in Mirabel, Quebec, earlier this week, said Philippe Poutissou, vice president of marketing at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft unit. Montreal-based Bombardier last month hosted “dozens” of country delegations during the triennial general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization to show off the plane, he said.

The first CSeries test plane successfully completed its maiden flight on Sept. 16 -- 8 1/2 months late. The jet will be the company’s biggest ever, seating as many as 160 people. Bombardier is depending on it as a catalyst to almost double annual revenue toward the end of the decade.

“We’ve certainly advanced many discussions” since that first flight, Poutissou said today in an interview at the Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa. “If you measure the level of interest by the number of customers who’ve asked to come and visit Mirabel since the aircraft has flown, it’s fantastic.”

Firm Orders

Bombardier, the third-biggest aircraft maker, is still 123 firm orders short of a target of 300 by the time the CSeries enters service in about a year. Mike Arcamone, who runs the commercial aircraft unit, is in China this week to drum up business for the jet, Poutissou said.

“We have a very strong pipeline, and we have conversations at all stages” of development, Poutissou said, declining to name customers. “We have advanced conversations, where we’re talking about commercial terms, and early conversations, where people are starting to assess how the CSeries could fit into their business model.”

Potential buyers of the CSeries include Air Canada and Singapore’s SilkAir, Walter Spracklin, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said Oct. 15 in a note to clients. Spracklin has an outperform rating, the equivalent of buy, on Bombardier’s stock.

Indonesia’s PT Lion Mentari Airlines is interested in the jet and may announce an order at next year’s Farnborough Air Show, Chief Executive Officer Rusdi Kirana told reporters in Montreal last month.

Bombardier has said the CSeries, which features the new geared turbofan engine from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney, will cost about 15 percent less to operate, cut fuel burn by about 20 percent and produce less noise.

Test Flights

The company has completed three test flights of the CSeries. Each flight allows Bombardier to collect data on about 14,000 parameters, and initial results suggest the plane will probably meet the company’s expectations on variables such as speed and altitude, Poutissou said.

“What we’ve learned so far is that our simulations were good,” Poutissou said. “The plane is performing similarly to the simulations. This is giving us a lot of confidence, given the work we’ve already done.”

Four more test aircraft are in “very advanced stages of assembly,” and a first production jet is in final assembly at the Mirabel plant, Rob Dewar, general manager of the CSeries program, said in a video shown today at the summit.

About 2,000 Bombardier employees now work on the CSeries program. That will probably rise to 3,500 at peak production in a few years, Poutissou said.

Bombardier’s largest CSeries firm order so far is from Republic Airways Holdings Inc. of the U.S., which agreed in 2010 to buy 40 jets, with options for another 40. That deal isn’t affected by Republic’s agreement earlier this month to sell its Frontier Airlines unit, Poutissou said.

“Our order is with Republic, and it’s staying with Republic,” he said. “There’s no change to the order.”

Bombardier shares rose less than 1 percent to C$4.99 at the close of trading in Toronto. They have climbed 33 percent this year.

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