LONDON — We sat down with the president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, Mike Arcamone, at the Farnborough Airshow to discuss everything from the status of CSeries program to the improvements of the CRJ-900 Next Gen.

Airways: So you’ve announced a few orders for the CSeries and unfortunately there was a little snag in the CSeries program a few months ago. But in terms of customer potential, there were a few orders here [at Farnborough]. You have upwards of 500 commitments now, but only in the range of about 250 firm orders. What sort of progress are you making in terms of converting those commitments into firm orders? And will that process accelerate as you enter into service?

Mike Arcamone: We’re very confident. Actually we’ve maintained all along that our goal is 20 customers and 300 firm orders. We’ve reached 20 customers at the show. We have 513 commitments, which include the 210 firm orders. Between now and August, September, as the months go on, we will translate those letters of intent. Some are already more advanced than others towards becoming firm orders. So I’m confident that we’ll obtain the 300 firm orders way before entering the service.

In terms of the CSeries’ positioning in the market, vis-a-vis in particular, your biggest competitor in the regional market, they are touting the fact that their E195E2 offers expanding seating, and they’re saying its competitive with the CS100. How would you assess the competitive balance between the C series and E2? Are they chasing different markets or the same market, in particular the CS100 versus the E2? Where does that competitive balance lie?

Well, I liked your opening remarks. They’re chasing us. We’re leading with a brand new aircraft. The aircrafts’ structure, avionics, engines, composite wings, it’s all-new. The interior is all-new. We lead with the interior. We have made progress in terms of luggage space, and the whole interior cabin is very friendly to customers. The angle that the bins open, the access of the galleys for flight attendants, the fact that you can move around, wider seats…. The wall of the aircraft, the way it sands, the egg shape so it’s more comfortable. When you put that all together, there’s not another product that comes close to CSeries and it’ll be entering into service next year. By the second half of next year, we’ll have our aircraft entering into service. We have a real product that customers can purchase and will have in their hands. Compared to something that doesn’t exist, what are they going to do? So we’re leading and they’re chasing.

 And what is the balance in terms of operating economics?

 Our aircraft is light. We maintain our fuel burn advantage and the position that we’re in right now. In terms of operating costs, we still retain the advantage. We look at the seating capacity gap between the CS100 and the E2, and if customers want to go up to the CS300, we offer extra capacity. So if you can fill 160 seats, with an aircraft that already gives you 12-15% better operating costs, you’re ahead by a lot. You put 160 passengers and with the fuel burn savings and the seat-mile costs improve tremendously, it’s tremendous. And so I’m not afraid of what they might come up with because they’ll still have to figure out how to catch up [with the CSeries] and how to beat it. And we are distancing ourselves with this type of performance.

Could you speak a little to the potential of the Q400 as a replacement for regional jet aircraft for the U.S. and around the world? And Mark has heard this question.

Well, first what we’ve done with our current product, which is already used by companies like Horizon that have over 50 [Q400s], West Jet, who actually recently purchased and has continued acquiring Q400s, Air Canada Jazz, Porter that runs on Toronto Island that runs a fleet of Q400 aircraft. It [the Q400] is a great, great regional aircraft if you want it. We’ve listened to our customers and our customers have said, “can you put more seats on the aircraft” and so we’ve launched the E6 seats. So again, why? Because there are areas of the world where passengers want to go from point to point. Within certain regions, we’ve had our customers ask for fewer passenger seats, and more cargo space. So we’ve been responding continuously with a very flexible setup that yes can go up to 86 in the jet areas, but can also vary cargo capacity. The Q400 performs very well: short runways, fast take off, where you can land – you don’t need a runway. So definitely we see growth and as a matter of fact, I think a lot of operators are starting to realize it’s quiet. We do a lot of demonstrations for our customers. We demonstrate how quiet it is. How quiet the turbo prop is… How smooth it is. So the fear of flying in a turbo prop is offset, and airlines can have the speed the Q400 offers, and the ability of a low speed light jet. So definitely in certain markets it can probably replace the low end of jets, absolutely.

On Day 1 at this air show, you announced a host of aerodynamic improvements to the CRJ 900. And today’s CRJ series is already about 5.5 percent better than the initial CRJ 900. How much more potential is there for incremental improvements to build on the CRJ 900’s superior economic performance to the E170 and E175, and how much incremental opportunity do you have to push the performance of today’s CRJ 900 so it can compete with the E175-E2?

We have declared that by 2020, within 5-6 years, we’ll be at double digits.

Is that double digits from today or from the beginning?

From entry into service. We’re at 5.5%, but we’re going into double digits. So we’ve done half. And there are changes coming, physical changes on the CRJ that will give it the double-digit advantage. We have started to define what thse will be. We will want to look at it as a module as well so we can go back and offer it to our existing customers and customers of our previous generations. But we’re looking at double digits within 5/6 years.