The CSeries has a new customer! Air Canada has signed a letter of intent with Bombardier for 75 of the CS300 type with deliveries starting in 2019. The agreement calls for 45 firm orders and 30 options on the aircraft; the options may be converted to the smaller CS100 per reports. This is the first order for the CSeries since roughly forever – definitely since the CS300 first flight a year ago – and is a massive boost for the ailing project. Then again, it is just a Letter of Intent, not a signed order. That shouldn’t really be an issue but it is worth pointing out.
The Air Canada CSeries order is part of that carrier’s narrowbody replacement program, an effort which sees, among other things, the retirement of 45 Embraer E190s from the fleet. The CSeries is a larger aircraft than the E90s being replaced, allowing Air Canada to increase capacity and reduce operating costs per seat mile at the same time. Deliveries are slated to begin in 2019 and stretch into 2022, giving the carrier time to integrate the new aircraft into its fleet plan.
The CSeries project has been a challenging one, particularly of late, for Bombardier. Even with the new order the profitability of the project is not guaranteed. On the plus side, it does help secure the recent investment mad by the government of Quebec in the program and continues what Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu describes as his carrier’s “continued support for Canada’s aerospace industry and for the new technologies the industry may develop.”The CS100 received type certification late in 2015 and is expected to enter service with Swiss in Q2 ’16.
Bombardier also announced cuts of 7,000 jobs across its operations as it moves to reduce costs and optimize the workforce. Interestingly, none of these cuts come in the Commercial Aerospace group; employment there will remain steady or increase in the coming years, allowing for production of the CSeries to ramp up and satisfy the order book.
Separately, Bombardier announced a 90-seat version of its Q400 Turboprop aircraft, an increase of 12-14 seats over the traditional layout. This makes it the largest prop in the market and, according to the company, “puts the aircraft’s flight time within minutes of jet schedules, at the same seat cost as larger single-aisle jets.” It is unclear if this change was driven specifically by Porter Air which was hoping to bring the CSeries to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Downtown Airport but found those plans scuttled by local NIMBYism and lobbying efforts at higher levels of government. The larger prop would allow some growth for the company without introducing jets to its fleet.
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