Bombardier Sees Sales Momentum for C Series Jet as Debut Nears

  • CEO says ‘clients are coming to us’ as turnaround advances
  • Deutsche Lufthansa unit to start flying the aircraft July 15

Bombardier Inc. is seeing increased momentum for its C Series jet family as the plane prepares to make its commercial debut after a development process that was plagued by delays and cost overruns, Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare said.

“A year ago we were experiencing a lot of difficulties,” Bellemare told reporters Wednesday in Mirabel, Quebec. “Now clients are coming to us.”

Alain Bellemare, centre, in front of a Bombardier CS100 in Quebec on June 29.

Photographer: Clement Sabourin/AFP/Getty Images

Bombardier has made crucial strides to shore up its finances and demonstrate that the C Series program -- which is two years late and $2 billion over budget -- has a long-term future. Besides landing firm orders from customers including Air Canada and Delta Air Lines Inc., the Montreal-based company closed a deal last week to sell 49.5 percent of the C Series program to Quebec for $1 billion.

Bellemare spoke at an event marking the first delivery of a C Series jet to Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss International unit. Swiss is scheduled to start flying the CS100 aircraft July 15, marking the jetliner’s commercial debut.

‘Seal of Approval’

“Air Canada gave us momentum, Quebec gave us momentum, and Delta has put the seal of approval on top of that,” Bellemare said. “We have over 300 letters of intent and potential memorandums of understanding that we are working on, and the performance of the plane is phenomenal.”

Canadian certification of the larger CS300 model should happen soon, Bombardier said. Latvia’s AirBaltic Corp. is scheduled to become the CS300’s first operator in the second half of the year.

Asked about prospects for orders at next month’s air show in Farnborough, U.K., Bellemare said Bombardier has “active” discussions with several potential buyers, without naming them.

He also expressed hope that Bombardier’s talks with the Canadian government can lead to a financing agreement, calling federal support “absolutely critical.”

“We are still in discussions with Ottawa, and we will continue to work with them and hopefully find a win-win solution,” he said. “There is a lot more runway in front of us with this project, and we would definitely welcome a partnership with Canada.”

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