C Series Engine Issues Slowing Bombardier Momentum, CEO Says

  • Bellemare says he’s ‘still very pleased’ with engine choice
  • Planemaker cut jet delivery forecast earlier this month

Bombardier Inc. Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare said the marketing of the company’s marquee aircraft has been hurt by delays caused by engine supplier Pratt & Whitney.

The planemaker reduced its forecast for deliveries of the C Series jetliner on Sept. 6, citing the issues at Pratt. Seven of the new aircraft are now slated to be handed over this year, down from an earlier plan of 15, Montreal-based Bombardier said.

“This is very disappointing. It’s hurting the momentum right now, but here is the fact: it’s a great engine,” Bellemare said Wednesday in a speech in Toronto. “I’m still very pleased that we made that choice. It’s the best engine available out there today for commercial aircraft.”

Bombardier hasn’t announced an agreement for the sale of C Series jets since signing Delta Air Lines Inc. in April to a firm order that may be valued at $5.6 billion based on list prices. The C Series was about 2 1/2 years late and more than $2 billion over budget when commercial flights began at Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss International unit in July.

Bombardier expects the issues at Pratt won’t affect future shipments of the C Series, Bellemare said Wednesday, saying that all new aircraft programs typically experience delays at some point.

Right Track

“Challenges like you’re seeing do happen on new programs,” he said. “The key is how you go at it, how you address it and how you bring that back on the right track. I think this is what Pratt are doing. I’m confident that we will pass through it, we will bounce back and we will continue growing the C Series program.”

Bombardier has said the C Series, with a composite frame and a new engine made by the Pratt unit of United Technologies Corp., would cut fuel consumption by about 20 percent compared with competing models while also making less noise. The jet is performing better than advertised, Bellemare said, without being more specific.

Pratt is working with suppliers to adapt the delivery schedule as the company looks to meet demand for the engine, a spokeswoman said in a statement. She noted that the turbine, which is in the hands of six operators, is meeting or exceeding performance specifications on fuel burn, emissions and noise reduction.

All Options

Bombardier will consider “all options” for its next new aircraft program, including a C Series version that could carry more passengers than the current maximum capacity of 160, Bellemare told reporters after his speech. No decision has been made, and the company will also weigh whether to add to its roster of business aircraft, he said.

“The answer today is I don’t know, but we are looking” at what to build next, the CEO said. “We’ve started the work, the advance analysis in terms of where we should invest.”

Development work on the Global 7000 business jet will be completed in 2018, which would enable the company to turn its focus to another program, Bellemare said.

“To make sure that we don’t lose momentum and we don’t lose the talent and the knowledge that we have built over the past five to 10 years, you need to launch this next platform in time,” he said. “That’s the reason why we are looking at it today.”

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