MONTRÉAL — It had a bit of a campaign rally, with employees waving CSeries placards and a lot of prep talks given and promises made by Bombardier on Monday in Montréal. And who would blame them, as they show their relief that both types of the delay-prone CSeries are now in the air with their respective first operators.
“A year ago, people thought that the CSeries and Bombardier would go down, and now we see a flawless, perfect performance, what a turnaround!” shouted Alain Bellemare, CEO of Bombardier Inc., triumphantly into the darkened aircraft hangar.
“This is an amazing accomplishment, the CSeries will be an anchor for many years to come for commercial aviation at Bombardier. We are getting a tremendous traction with it.” Pressed later of when the CSeries, that John Leahy of Airbus has blamed to be based on a flawed business model, would ever make profits, Bellamare offered “by 2020”.
The proudest man on stage on this “historical day”, as he called it when interviewed by Airways, was probably Rob Dewar, VP CSeries program, who has been labelled the “father of the CSeries.”
“To successfully deliver two different versions of a brand-new aircraft within five months of each other has never been done in the industry, and we did it even one day short of five months,” Dewar boasted.
Two years ago, Bombardier had committed itself to deliver the CS100 in the second quarter of 2016 and the CS300 by the end of the fourth quarter, which has now happened. According to Dewar, this is a “huge milestone.”
Dewar still remains optimistic that Bombardier would be able to announce new customers for the CSeries by the end of the year, as he had predicted in talking to Airways in October. The last of 358 firm orders (123 of which are for the CS100, with 235 for the CS300) came in June by Air Canada for 45 CS300s for deliveries starting 2019.
“The C Series gathers momentum and this will translate into orders.” Dewar concluded.
The symbiosis between Bombardier and airBaltic was very vivid again during the ceremony. The Latvian carrier had first ordered the CSeries at a time the program had almost no credibility in the industry, in late 2012, one of only two orders that year.
“Today we can see it’s the better aircraft than what Airbus or Boeing had to offer us”, said a beaming Martin Gauss, CEO of airBaltic. “We are one of Europe’s smallest countries, and the fact that we are the first to take the biggest Canadian jet speaks for itself.” But Pauls Calitis, SVP Flight Operations and captain of the imminent delivery flight to Riga via Stockholm, was honest enough to call it “a long, difficult but successful process” to finally take delivery of the first of 20 CS300s the carrier ordered.
The first scheduled flight is due on December 14 from Riga to Amsterdam, a demo flight with invited guests from Riga to Hamburg is set two days earlier.
Among the guests at the ceremony in Montréal was also a big delegation of SWISS, whose pilots had worked closely together with their airBaltic colleagues to define standards and procedures for the type’s operations.
“For a brand-new aircraft, the CSeries performed better than expected,” said Peter Koch, chief pilot for the type at SWISS, in talking to Airways, “and now it has 25 years to mature.”
Currently, SWISS has three CS100s in operation, with two more already on the production line in Mirabel. The fourth one, to be registered HB-JBE, is due for delivery in 2016, and even the fifth might cross the Atlantic before the year is over.
In May 2017, SWISS will get the first os 15 CS300s on order, with the first seven to be based in Geneva. “It now pays off for us to have 95% commonality between the two types, we basically just have to read two A4 pages to make the conversion”, says Peter Koch.
Another prominent guest on the sidelines of the first CS300 delivery on Monday was Robert Deluce, CEO of Canadian regional carrier Porter Airlines, operating out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport. His carrier placed a commitment for 12 CS100s with Bombardier in 2013 as a conditional order, depending on the question if Porter would get the runway extension at Billy Bishop to operate jets.
For the time being, the plea has been rejected by the local community and politicians, but Deluce is unfazed, “We keep up our conditional orders and leave our deposit with Bombardier, who knows, things change, but currently our focus is rather on enhancing our Q400 operations,” he tells Airways.
For the CSeries program, there are other priorities right now, besides gaining more orders. “We are currently in the test phase to achieve ETOPS certification by mid-2017,” says Rob Dewar, “as well as getting the steep approaches into London City certified.”
For airBaltic, the biggest priority now is to get its first new jet in its history home to Riga, where on December 1, a huge ceremony with 2,000 invited guests is going to take place. In setting up the delivery with a total of 18 passengers occupying the 145 seats, among them the Airways reporter, airBaltic goes on its own ways.
While SWISS had its delivery flights so far depart at 06:00 local time in Montréal to get into Zurich non-stop after a bit over eight hours flight around 20:00 local time, airBaltic has chosen a different option due to less day light in winter, choosing to depart on its first delivery with the CS300 at 02:00 local time in Montréal, getting into Stockholm before nightfall there in the early afternoon Swedish time. After a night stop in Stockholm it’s only a short hop across the Baltic sea to Riga, where the aircraft is due on Wednesday morning.