Hopes high for Bombardier CSeries breakthrough at Farnborough Airshow

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CS100 in Swiss Air livery. The jetliner is set to enter service on July 15.

Bombardier’s CS100 aircraft is set to be one of the “stars” of this year’s Farnborough airshow, according to England’s Guardian newspaper, though not exactly for the highly technical reasons usually touted by its manufacturer. The Guardian writer focuses on the fact that the C Series planes have wider seats than competitors’ planes, an improvement Bombardier said it made in response to requests from airlines, who wanted to give passengers more room. The planes also have larger windows, a wider aisle, and larger luggage bins. The wings for the CSeries are designed and developed in Bombardier’s Belfast facility, and received an investment of CAD$306 million (£180million) from the British government.

CNBC, meanwhile, reports that the CS100 is “wowing” airplane fans at Farnborough, one of the most important airshows in the world. A plane owned by Swiss Air, which is set to enter service on July 15, is making a demonstration flight at the show on Monday, July 11. Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare said that the jet’s wider aisle and taller lavatories, along with the other comfort features noted, will improve customer experience. The CS100 can accommodate up to 133 passengers.

Aside from the positive buzz the plane has generated at Farnborough for its appearance, it can now claim a much-improved sales record to further boost momentum. Since last year’s other major airshow in Paris, Bombardier has finalized two major orders for the CSeries on its books; 45 for Air Canada and 75 for Delta Air Lines. Air Baltic, meanwhile, has ordered seven CS300s. These orders, according to an aviation consultant who formerly worked for Bombardier, have “validated” the airplane. Rolland Vincent noted that they are “quality, marquee orders” and more are expected. Vincent said he would not be surprised if a European carried announced an order at Farnborough. According to the Financial Post, an RBC industry analyst wrote that the potential for new orders at Farnborough is “high.” China is considered a particularly important target market for Bombardier.

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The CS100 interior with its 3-plus-2 seat arrangement allows for more aisle space, making entering and leaving the aircraft easier for passengers. Seats are also wider than on competitors’ aircraft.

The company was also able to announce today that the CS300 has now been certified by Transport Canada. The first of the larger version of the jetliner is already in production, for delivery to airBaltic of Latvia later in 2016. Certification was “straightforward” said Bombardier’s vice president of the CSeries program, Robert Dewar, because of over 99 per cent commonality between the CS100 and the CS300. Dewar said that he could confirm a range improvement “in excess of 20 per cent”  out of certain “hot-and-high” airports, including Denver and Mexico City.

The premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, said in Farnborough that though Bombardier does not need federal money immediately, he expects Ottawa to come through with $1 billion in funding. The company, he said, has sufficient liquidity to fill existing orders, thanks in part to his government’s recent $500 million payment, but additional funding will give the company greater flexibility for future development. The federal economic development minister is scheduled to make an announcement at Farnborough about the Quebec aerospace sector.

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