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CS300 Readies for First Delivery Monday: A Look Back at the CSeries Timeline

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CS300 Readies for First Delivery Monday: A Look Back at the CSeries Timeline

CS300 Readies for First Delivery Monday: A Look Back at the CSeries Timeline
November 25
11:51 2016

MIAMI — As the Bombardier CSeries CS300 is about to be delivered to its launch customer airBaltic, Airways takes a look at the history of the program, which officially launched with Bombardier’s Board of Directors approval on January 31, 2007.

The Failed Fokker Deal and the BRJX


The origins of the CSeries program date back two decades ago, when Bombardier considered the purchase of Fokker in order to gain access to the Fokker 100. After citing a “clash of corporate cultures” Bombardier’s executives and Board walked away from the deal in February 1996.

At the 1998 Farnborough Air Show, Bombardier announced the launch of the BRJX or “Bombardier Regional Jet eXpansion.” The aircraft would be an clean-sheet design with a fuselage cross section of 128 inches, five-abreast seating, and two underwing-mounted engines, and devised to be a replacement of the DC-9/MD-80 from McDonnell Douglas and compete with the Boeing 717, 737-600 and Airbus A318.

Bombardier CRJ-900 (Credits: Bombardier)

Bombardier CRJ-900 (Credits: Bombardier)

While the BRJX was targeted for the 4th quarter of 2000, followed by first flight in the 1st quarter of 2003, it was subsequently shelved in favor of stretching the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) from 70 to 90 seats (today known as the CRJ900). This decision was made to offer a 90-seater a year or more ahead rivals Embraer (involved in the development of the first generation of EJets at that time) and Fairchild Dornier’s 728 and 928, which never came to fruition.

Restarting the Program… Not Yet


In July 2004, Bombardier announced the CSeries family aircraft to replace the cancelled BRJX project. The CSeries would be larger than the CRJ family aircraft, and capable of carrying 110 to 130 passengers (dubbed the C110 and C130, respectively). Just like the BRJX, it would feature new, more fuel-efficient engines and a higher percentage of composite materials, similar to that used on the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 wide bodies.

Bombardier CSeries CS100 and CS300 illustration with front, side and top views. (Credits: Paolo Cerutti)

Bombardier CSeries CS100 and CS300 illustration with front, side and top views. (Credits: Paolo Cerutti)

A year later, in May 2005, Bombardier secured agreements with the Canadian and UK government for support and loans for the CSeries project. The Canadian government has committed US$350 million in financing; the British government has committed US$300 million. The program will cost about $3.5 billion, and Bombardier will share the cost with suppliers and governments.

Despite the innovative product, the response of the airlines was lukewarm. In an industry starting to recover from the 9/11 aftermath and economic recession in key potential markets, Bombardier announced in January 2006 that it would not go forward with the program. Instead, it would keep a small team working on a feasible marketing plan, besides adding other risk-sharing partners in the program. Instead, Bombardier placed its bet in the CRJ and its additional (and final) stretch, the CRJ1000.

Third Time’s a Charm


Just one year after its supposed cancellation, Bombardier confirmed that the program would continue, with its formal launch made in a press conference on July 13, 2008, on the eve of the opening of the Farnborough Air Show, with a letter of intent for 60 aircraft (including 30 options) for Lufthansa’s subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS).

A Digital Image of a CS100 wearing the SWISS livery. (Credits: Bombardier)

A Digital Image of a CS100 wearing the SWISS livery. (Credits: Bombardier)

The CSeries aircraft will use Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (now PW1000G) as the exclusive powerplant of the family aircraft, while equipped in the cockpit with Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite, an integrated cockpit system which incorporates 15 inch displays, with comprehensive navigation, communications, surveillance, engine-indicating and crew-alerting system (EICAS), and aircraft maintenance systems.

In 2009, Mongolian carrier Eznis Airways siged a letter of intent for seven CSeries. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways had previously been in talks with Bombardier for a major order, which never materialized after disagreeing on terms. Then, in March, Bombardier logged the first firm order with Lufthansa, which downed its intended 60 aircraft order for just 30 aircraft for SWISS.

A Troubled Development and Flight Program


On March 7, 2013, Bombardier offered an extensive update on the CSeries program, displaying the “Flight Test Vehicle One” (FTV-1) in an almost completed state, along with other three FTVs in different stages of assembly. A 160-seat variant of the CS300, named the “Extra Capacity” version with two overwing emergency exits was also presented.

FTV-1 in the rollout of the CSeries. (Credits: Bombardier)

FTV-1 in the rollout of the CSeries. (Credits: Bombardier)

During that month, the electrical system of FTV-1 was successfully powered up, and static airframe tests proceeded satisfactorily and on schedule.

Two months later, in early June, Bombardier decided to shift the timeline for the first flight into July 2013, due to upgrades to the aircraft’s software and final ground testing, further delayed at the end of Juy after a lengthy system integration process.

On August 30, 2013, Transport Canada granted the flight test permit to perform high-speed taxi and flight tests. And as Bombardier planned, FTV-1 took off to the skies on September 16, 2013 from Mirabel Airport north of Montreal in Canada. During the first flight, over 14,000 data points were gathered, which allowed to make some additional configurations and software updates.

CS100 FTV-1 in its first test flight. (Credits: Bombardier)

CS100 FTV-1 in its first test flight. (Credits: Bombardier)

After the first flights, challenges began to accumulate. Due to difficulties with the certification flight testing, the program was delayed by at least 12 months in January 2014 to the second half of 2015, with the CS300 to follow six months after the CS100. Then, one of the four CS100 experienced an uncontained engine failure, which led to the suspension of the test program until an investigation of the incident could be completed. After four months, it was determined that a fault in the lubrication system caused the failure.

Flight testing was resumed in September 2014. At that time, Bombardier chairman Laurent Beaudoin stated that the CSeries was now expected to to enter into service in 2016.

The second variant of the family, the CS300, took off for its maiden sortie at Mirabel on February 27, 2015, followed by the debut of both models at the 2015 Paris Air Show, where Bombardier released updated performance data, showing improvements with respects to the initial specifications. There, SWISS also announced the conversion of 10 CS100s to CS300s, and airBaltic was confirmed as the launch operator of the CS300.

Digital image of a CS300 boasting the Air Baltic livery. (Credits: Bombardier)

Digital image of a CS300 boasting the airBaltic livery. (Credits: Bombardier)

By late August 2015, Bombardier disclosed it had completed over 80% of the required certification tests for the CS100, obtaining the certification type from Transport Canada in December of that year.

The Program Sees the Light… with a Little Help


Despite the positive results from the flight test campaign, cost overruns and delays took their toll on the finances of Bombardier. In October 2015, the company took a took a $3.2 billion writedown on the CSeries, with the announcement of the government of Quebec to invest $1 billion to save the program, with a partnership established on June 23, 2016. The deal was completed a few months later on September 2.

Besides the financial woes, the program experienced a drought of orders since September 2014 which further cast doubts about the feasibility of the program. These uncertainties were partially dissipated on February 16, 2016, when Air Canada signed a letter of intent (LOI) for up to 75 CS300s (45 firm and 30 options) as part of its narrowbody fleet renewal plan. This major order became firm on June 28, 2016.

However, days after the Air Canada LOI, Republic Airways filed for bankruptcy. The airline was at that time the largest CSeries customer with 40 CS300 on order. Also, Bombardier lost a major customer with United Airlines, when the Chicago-based carrier walked away from the CSeries and placed an order for 25 Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

Two weeks after the Air Canada announcement, a groundbreaking order from Delta Air Lines for 75 CS100s plus 50 purchasing options allowed Bombardier to reach its proposed goal in orders before the entry into service. The stellar momentum of the CSeries was further highlighted by its debut at the Annual General Meeting of IATA in Dublin, where the CS100 had its first passenger flight ever, transporting airline executives, press staff and invitees to the Star Alliance’s Annual General Meeting in Zurich.

Initial Deliveries


 

On June 23 2016, Bombardier announced that the first CS100 was going be delivered to SWISS on Wednesday, June 29. The historic delivery took place in the premises of the manufacturer in Montréal, Canada, where both SWISS and Bombardier employees gathered with government representatives, suppliers and media to celebrate the event.

After the handover ceremony, SWISS introduced the type to its fleet with a special preview flight. The first aircraft, (HB-JBA • MSN 50010), was then readied for its first revenue service, which took place on July 15, 2016 in the Zurich – Paris CDG route as LX638.

Since the entry into service, SWISS has taken delivery of three CS100s, which have flown over 1,100 revenue flights to a dozen destinations and carried over 116,000 passengers. SWISS claims that the CSeries has been significantly more reliable in its first months of operation than other aircraft built by its competitors.

In early October 2016, and almost five years after the initial deal between Bombardier and airBaltic was struck, the first CS300 serial aircraft (YL-CSA • MSN 55003) was unveiled at Bombardier’s Montréal plant.

On November 25, 2016 Bombardier announced that the first CS300 would be delivered to airBaltic on Monday, November 28.

The first destination for scheduled flights with airBaltic’s first CS300 will be Amsterdam on December 14. In order to gain operational experience, the route portfolio for the first aircraft will be mixed, with a set of long routes such as Amsterdam, Munich and Zurich, complemented by shorter hops from Riga to Stockholm, Helsinki, Vilnius and Tallinn.

To date, Bombardier has received 358 firm orders for the CSeries, with 123 for the CS100 and 235 for the CS300, plus 115 commitments for both variants.

Editors Note: Andreas Spaeth will be covering the handover event to airBaltic on Monday November 28, 2016 on Twitter @AirwaysLive and @AirwaysMag. Andreas will also be the only member of the press onboard the delivery flight to Riga, with a first review of the onboard experience.

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A Global Review of Commercial Flight since 1994: the leading Commercial Aviation publication in North America and 35 nations worldwide. Based in Miami, Florida.

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