However, National Bank Financial aerospace and defense analyst Cameron Doerksen writes in a memo that a tour of the Bombardier facilities “gave us comfort that the program is to remain on schedule. . . . Our sense is right now that if the CSeries experiences a delay, it will be in the order of months, not in the years experienced by other OEMs on their new aircraft programs.”
Bombardier plans to use five aircraft in the CS100 flight-test program, plus another two for the CS300 version. Major structures of the smaller CS100 are now in “advanced assembly,” Arcamone says. “Suppliers are making significant progress, . . . demonstrating that they are meeting our requirements,” he notes.
Key performance targets for the aircraft's fuel burn and weight have been confirmed, too. Bombardier expects them to be very close to specification.
But the aircraft maker has identified four key areas in need of particular attention in the run-up to series production. These are: delivery of key structural components, supplier testing, systems maturity, and in-house testing and simulations for final assembly start and production ramp-up.
According to Arcamone, Bombardier expects to have the first static-test airframe ready by the end of September and the first flight-test aircraft completed in December, with the major aircraft structures ready several months ahead of that. The CS100/CS300 is still on budget and the program's cash burn is within the previously defined limits, Bombardier says.
The sluggish sales performance of the CS100 and CS300 is of no concern to Bombardier management—officially. “I'm absolutely satisfied with the CSeries orders,” Arcamone asserts. He says Bombardier has 66% of the market in the 100-149-seat segment, which includes the Embraer 195s and the smaller A320 and 737 variants. But the CSeries has 138 firm orders, compared to more than 1,400 for the A320NEO and 1,000-plus commitments and 451 firm orders for the 737MAX, which were launched in part to ward off new narrowbody segment entrants such as Bombardier.
Some customers and Air Lease Corp. Chairman/CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy have urged Bombardier to adopt more aggressive sales tactics and mainline practices such as significant discounting and more extensive performance guarantees. One airline executive says Bombardier also must give its sales staff more freedom in negotiations rather than forcing them to play by a relatively strict rulebook. “At the end of the day, what counts is that you get the order,” he stresses. “But you will be asked serious questions internally when you don't get it.”
Most airlines that have ordered the CSeries appear to be pleased with the technical side of Bombardier's recent program status presentation, but they are concerned by the scarcity of sales. Republic Airways CEO Bryan Bedford has been especially outspoken, saying that the CSeries might be in danger of facing the same fate as the Boeing 717, which was halted due to weak market interest.
Republic is the CSeries's largest customer, with an order for 40 aircraft, though it has since signed for 20 A319NEOs and 60 A320NEOs, feeding Bombardier's worries. Nonetheless, Bedford stated earlier this year, “our intent is to still take [the CSeries].”
Arcamone says Republic has not changed the status of its CSeries order, asserting, “Republic is a valued customer of ours; they are very supportive of our program.” He says lessors are also very interested in the CSeries, and that, in terms of the sales strategy, “we are not looking for the one big customer that is ordering 100 aircraft.”