August 2012

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Bombardier opens the curtains on CSeries (Update1)

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CS100 Exterior_560.jpgA little over a week ago, my colleague Mary Kirby and I had a chance to join several industry journalists in an interview with Gary Scott, president of Bombardier commercial aircraft programs.

The small gathering was part of a kickoff to a roadshow Bombardier has begun to market its new narrow-body CSeries aircraft to airlines and lessors. The first stop was New York city to be followed by stops in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Our hour-long conversation covered an enormous amount of ground on the future of the CSeries. After being twice burned with the 787 and A380, Scott says that program execution is the number one concern of airlines looking to buy into a new aircraft.

Scott, for the first time, outlined the five-aircraft flight test program that Bombardier has planned for the 100 to 125-seat CS100 which has a planned 2013 EIS. After flight test, all the aircraft, Scott says, will be offered up for sale and likely sold with a discount following refurbishment.

He also discussed emerging competition from China, Brazil and Japan and how a Comac selection of the GTF for the C919 would be an endorsement of the CSeries. Scott also spoke candidly about the Trans States MRJ order which neither Bombardier nor Embraer was invited to bid on.

Bombardier has put a lot of energy into designing the cabin of the CSeries which will include a five-abreast layout and a 1-inch wider middle seat. The overhead bins, Scott says, will enable passengers to carry on more luggage, avoiding baggage fees and reducing ramp baggage loading times for aircraft. The company is also looking distantly down the road to a time when the passenger interior is removed and fitted in VIP configuration to create a new BBJ, or Bombardier Business Jet.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the composite wing of the CSeries was a topic of conversation. Rather than laying down composite tape for the top and bottom wingskins, Bombardier will use resin transfer injection to create the CFRP panels at the company's Belfast unit. The new $520 million facility represents the largest investment in the history of Northern Ireland.

Scott says that Bombardier went back and took a long, hard look at the CSeries wing design after Boeing announced the side-of-body issue with the 787 wing, but ultimately made no changes to its own design as a result. In addition, Scott reaffirmed that both the CS100 and CS300 would have a common 115 foot 1 inch (35.1m) wing design even though the wing is sized for the larger CS300.

Scott's comments came after I asked him whether or not the CS100 was carrying around too much extra weight as a result of the larger wing in comparison to the Embraer E-195. The Brazilian airframer says the CS100 only offers a 2% advantage in cash operating costs over the E-195.
"Yes, we have a bigger wing, but it's optimized for our family and putting a larger wing on does add weight, no doubt about it. Obviously we've offset that with the new materials, as well as the fly-by-wire. That gives us the range that our customers want and that also gives us performance. The CS100 can take off in less than 5,000 feet of runway. It can fly in an out of London City it also can fly in and out of difficult airports...whether it's Jackson Hole or Western China. The Embraer [E-195] can't do any of that, it needs over 7,000 feet of runway to take off. The bigger wing means you can actually carry payload, so at high/hot conditions like in Denver, I'm not sure how many people the E-195 can carry, but it's not many, so they have to start dumping payload in a hurry if they want to fly very far. So the bigger intended to solve all of those different issues."
Embraer's formal response to Mr. Scott's comments on the E-195:
"While Embraer is not in a position to comment on the strategic positioning its competitors are aiming with their own projects, it is important to note that over  600 Embraer E-Jets have already been delivered to 45 airlines operating in five continents, providing significant benefits in terms of performance, economics and passenger comfort.

E-Jets are flying right now - in 2009,  from challenging airports like Denver and London City, stretching the right-sizing benefit to cities that otherwise could not be served as efficiently and environmentally friendly."

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