CS100 first flight, September 16, 2013. Photo via Seattle Times.
Is the tide ready to turn for the Bombardier CSeries?
Following a nine month delay, the CS100 Flight Test Vehicle #1 took to the air September 16. It’s flown only twice since and has been undergoing ground vibration tests and more software upgrades. BBD is pretty mum about the testing program, which causes speculation about whether some issue emerged during the three flight tests. But we’re told by a source familiar with the program, but who is not with BBD, that BBD is being conservative in its pace, counting on the fact that it will eventually have seven FTVs to bring entry-into-service on time. A few Canadian aerospace analysts think EIS will slip to 1Q2015.
Then there are the orders, just 177 firm, which is more than those for the Airbus A319neo and the Boeing 737-7 MAX combined, but which the market perceives as low and a slow-selling program. Bombardier points out that the firm sales are about on par with other new airplane programs at this stage, but the market–dazzled by the thousands of orders placed for the NEO and MAX–won’t make these distinctions.
But it’s possible the tide is ready to turn for the CSeries. Here’s why.
- Potential customers have been waiting for the first flight and to see whether the program will be more or less on time with the new, implied schedule emanating from first flight. We believe a few more months have to pass before any conclusions are drawn on this score.
- Likewise, a few months have to pass before Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney will know whether the economic promises will in fact be achieved.
- There are some key sales campaigns for which decisions should be made in the coming months, both this year and into next, that if BBD wins will serve to build significant momentum.
- Airbus is running out of delivery slots for the entire A320 family. The VivaAerobus order announced October 21 includes deliveries beginning next year. The backlog goes to 2019-2020, and while John Leahy, COO-Customers, is adept at finding slots through juggling the skyline, there simply aren’t too many left mid-term. Bombardier is sold out into 2016 and is a better position to offer deliveries in quantity. This makes it difficult for Leahy to “buy” a deal, which he has done on several occasions, to under-price CSeries to a point where BBD can’t play in the sandbox.
- Boeing remains more focused on the 737-8/9 than on the 737-7, leaving BBD to largely fight its war against the diminishing Airbus and the forthcoming Embraer E-190/195 E2, the latter with a planned EIS of 2018, a good three years after CS100 enters service.
It will likely be next year before solid trends are noticeable. BBD retains its goal of reaching 300 firm orders and 20-30 customers by EIS, at least a year from now. We think this is easily achievable.
Update, Oct. 22: The Iraq-Business News reports that the government has approved the purchase of five CS300s at $40m each.