MIRABEL – Bombardier Commercial Aircraft hosted international media on Tuesday, September 12th, for its 2017 Aero Perspectives conference. During the day-long conference at the CRJ and Series manufacturing site, the company provided updates on its three aircraft programs; the Q400 turboprop, the CRJ, and the C Series.
Bombardier’s VP Customer Services Todd Young was first to speak, providing an update on the Q400. The program has gained 15 new Q400 operators in the last five years, and there are more than 550 Q400s in active service. The Q400 received a nice boost at the Paris Air Show in June, as Spicejet announced a firm order for 25 Q400s, along with purchase rights for an additional 25.
Young also announced that Bombardier will be increasing the maximum capacity of the Q400, to hold up to 90 passengers, which is how Spicejet’s planes will be configured. The new standard cabin configuration will hold 82 seats at a 30-inch pitch, with a large rear galley and no forward baggage compartment. The 90-seat configuration would knock the pitch down to 28 inches. Removal of the forward baggage hold in the cabin will also create a more pleasant aesthetic for passengers while they’re boarding, with a much more open feel, and three windows will be added on the starboard side in place of the baggage compartment, giving the cabin a brighter feel.
The Q400 program has also attained some maintenance cost savings, by extending the required time between A-Checks to 800 hours, and C-Checks to 8,000 hours, which gives each plane an estimated 270 extra days of flying time throughout its life cycle. Other Q400 upgrades over the last decade have included wireless IFE capability, ADS-B Out, RNP navigation, and a Combi version.
Next, we had CRJ Program Manager Jean-Francois Guay provide an update on the CRJ. Guay said the CRJ has found 25 new operators in the last 5 years, totaling over 120 operators worldwide in over 90 countries. Some new operators are in the used market, but Bombardier feels some of those may also choose to order new ones. Since the start of the program, Bonbardier has made enhancements to the CRJ, such as LEDs, Satcom IFE, Wifi, fuel burn improvement, and navigation (ADS-B OUT). They’re also developing NextGen FAA navigation, high altitude operational capabilities, and hot operations over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
As with the Q400 program, the CRJ has also extended its required maintenance intervals: 800 hours between A-Checks, and 8000 hours between C-Checks.
The day’s big news for the CRJ came in the form of a next generation cabin upgrade, dubbed “Atmosphere by Bombardier.” Guay said airlines today want to create a seamless passenger experience between every aircraft type in their fleet. And with larger planes such as the C Series, A320 and 737 receiving bigger storage bins and mood lighting, it was time to give the CRJ a similar treatment. The design was influenced by current trends in sleek tech design, comfort, and quality. Guay said, “We live in a world of uncertainty, and people want a sense of peace and comfort in the design when they travel, like they have at home.”
The larger overhead bins will have metallic trims on the sides, with hidden handles along the bottom, giving them a fresh and distinctive look among their competitors. Another important upgrade is for passengers with reduced mobility.
Bombardier has redesigned the CRJ lavatory to be 60% larger, allowing room for a second person in the lavatory to assist the passenger, if needed. The cabinet will have space under the sink, which will be more ergonomically friendly to those in wheelchairs when washing their hands. Guay said the updated cabin will begin deliveries in Q2, 2018.
The C Series
Finally, C Series Program Director Istifan Ghanem spoke about the company’s most ambitious project to date. As of this week, the CS100 and CS300 had combined for 350+ orders 800 commitments. 18 have been delivered thus far, including 11 in 2017. The company has said they plan to deliver about 30 this year, so there is a lot of catching up to be done. Korean Airlines will receive their first of ten ordered CS300 this fall, becoming the first C Series operator in Asia.
Ghanem said Chinese certification is upcoming, along with Cat III Autoland Certification, and ETOPS 180 approval. In-seat power will be delivered later this year. Another milestone will occur on October 29th, when Air Baltic launches service from Riga to Abu Dhabi — a flight six hours in length — at a distance of 2,500 nautical miles. The airline will also be launching 13 new routes with the C Series in 2018.
Swiss started commercial flights to London City (LCY) with the CS100 on August 8th. CS100 is the largest plane operating at LCY. Bombardier says its low environmental footprint, quiet operations make it ideal for LCY. In an upcoming story, we’ll hear from a Swiss CS100 captain who flies that route.
Ghanem spoke of plenty of room for the C Series program to grow, so Airways asked of that growth might include an even larger C Series aircraft, such as a CS500. He replied, “There’s always discussion, but right now we’re just focusing on a smooth entry into service for the current models.”
In regard to the C Series delivery deficiency for the year, President Commercial Aircraft Fred Cromer said the deliveries would be heavily-skewed on the back end of this year, and they still plan to meet the goal of delivering 30. The engine provider, Pratt & Whitney is aligning with that plan. Some of the engines that were produced had to be taken back by P&W in order to replace the combustor. Cromer said all of the remaining deliveries for this year are already in the construction process, and they expect to hit their mature production rate in 2020. During our afternoon tour, we counted twelve under assembly on the final assembly lines that we were shown. Photos were not allowed.
The ongoing USITC battle between Boeing and Bombardier also brought a lot of questions, which execs did their best to dodge or defer, due to the ongoing nature of the suit. Mr Cromer did say, “The fact the the UK government is supporting this is good news. Fifty percent of the value of this program is coming from the US. You could argue that the US would support the argument against Boeing as well. Not only is it an attack against innovation, it’s against jobs that are coming from an international supply chain. We feel like we’re in compliance.” He went on to say that Boeing wasn’t invited by Delta into the discussion for the order of the planes, nor does Boeing produce a plane that competes with the C Series in the same class, so it was difficult to see how Boeing would be damaged by the Delta sale.
Editorial disclosure: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft covered the author’s hotel accommodations for the conference, but all accounts and opinions of the event belong to the author.