Bombardier Seeks New C Series Megadeal to Retain Momentum

  • Planemaker targets sale to match Delta, Air Canada contracts
  • More modest agreement may be announced before year’s end

The Bombardier Inc. CS300 jet aircraft is displayed during a news conference in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, on Nov. 28, 2016.

Photographer: Valerian Mazataud/Bloomberg

Bombardier Inc. anticipates another major order for the C Series jet next year following project-bolstering deals from Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Canada in 2016, and may announce a smaller contract this month.

The Canadian planemaker is pursuing prospects including some high-volume opportunities and would like to gain a foothold in the low-cost airline segment next year, Colin Bole, senior vice president for sales at its commercial aircraft unit, said Tuesday in London.

Bombardier announced the latest C Series sale on Dec. 2, with Air Tanzania agreeing to buy two CS300 variants, taking the overall order tally to 360 planes. The manufacturer expects to have handed over a total of seven aircraft this year, five to initial customer Swiss and two to Air Baltic Corp., with production curtailed by issues with the model’s Pratt & Whitney engines. Deliveries will step up to the originally planned 30 to 35 in 2017, he said.

“We are not going to announce another megadeal this year, though there may be something smaller, but I’d say we’re hopeful of at least one more in 2017,” the executive said in an interview. Montreal-based Bombardier sold at least 75 CS100 planes to Delta and at least 45 CS300s to Air Canada in agreements that gave the faltering project vital big-name customers.

Low-Cost Airlines

While U.S. discount operator Spirit Airlines Inc. has said it may be interested in buying the C Series, the capacity of the two variants available is lower than what is flown by budget carriers such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and Southwest Airlines Co.

Bole said that’s because airlines are seeking to minimize costs per seat mile flown by moving to bigger planes. However, he said, the all-composite C Series would be profitable at lower occupancy levels, enabling discount carriers to add routes that wouldn’t be viable with current Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE models.

“We don’t want to cut out Airbus and Boeing,” he said. “The C Series can be complementary. We actually think there’s a strong sales case for low-cost carriers for certain kinds of services where bigger planes don’t work.”

Bole said there may be a market for a larger version of the C Series with 150-plus seats. He’s not pushing for such a model, given Bombardier’s estimates of demand for 7,000 planes in the 100- to 150-berth range over the next 10 years. A bigger plane would open up new sales opportunities but compete more directly with the best-selling variants of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, he said.

London City Debut

With Swiss having taken delivery of the CS100 in July, Bombardier is working on certification of the plane for takeoffs from the short runway at London City airport. Simulation of the steep approach to the urban hub has prompted “minor software modifications” which have in turn put back the first flight there to the first quarter, though plans for service entry shouldn’t be compromised, Bole said.

The Swiss planes, which have 125 seats, will be able to operate across Europe from City, he said,. Jets with a business-only layout similar to that of 32-seat Airbus A318s, deployed at the airport by British Airways, would be able to reach the eastern seaboard of North America without the refueling stop that the BA planes need to make in Ireland.

Bombardier’s other new plane, the Global 7000 business jet, completed its ninth flight in Wichita, Kansas, on Monday after first taking to the air on Nov. 4, spokesman Mark Masluch said. The second of five test planes is being built and will be used to test the hydraulics and propulsion systems of the model, which is slated for service entry in 2018.

Michael Ryan, general manager of Bombardier’s plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said in London that it’s not yet clear what impact the company’s moves to cut 7,500 more jobs across its aerospace and rail business will have on the site.

The U.K. factory, which makes fuselages, engine nacelles and advanced composite wings for the C Series and Global 7000, is eliminating more than 1,000 positions, with the last posts due to be gone by the end of January, Ryan said in an interview.

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