In an announcement on Friday that surprised few in the industry, Bombardier Aerospace’s new Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare confirmed that the CSeries CS100’s Entry-Into-Service (EIS) will slip into 2016.
The EIS “shift to the right” was foreshadowed by hints made by the airframer after the successful first flight of the larger, CS300 jetliner on February 27th. Originally planned for 2013, a revised “second half of 2015” EIS had been previously confirmed. Bellemare is now saying that Canadian certification of the CS100 should still happen before year-end, with EIS for a still unidentified launch customer taking place in 2016. According to reports in Bloomberg Business, Bellemare asserted that the timetable hadn’t changed. “With certification of the program planned for the end of 2015, you don’t do a delivery before the start of next year anyway,” he said.
Five CS100s and one CS300 are now flying, working to complete the 2,400 hour flight test program. The CS100’s first flight took place over 18 months ago, in September 2013. The program suffered a major setback in June, 2014, when the Flight Test Vehicle 1’s (FTV1) advanced technology Pratt & Whitney PW1524G geared turbofan suffered an uncontained engine failure. The FTVs were grounded for three months. Industry speculation also focused on delays due to potential issues with the integration of the CS100’s fly-by-wire (FBW) system. However, FTV2 began operation in FBW “normal mode” soon after the resumption of the flight test program in September, 2014.
Bombardier recently announced that it now has orders and commitments for over 600 CSeries planes, following the mid-March signing of a Letter of Intent by flymojo. The Malaysian start-up airline has ordered 20 CS100s, with options for an additional 20 aircraft. Bombardier is still about 50 orders short of its hoped-for “300 orders by EIS.” There is speculation that FTV5, the first CS100 with a full passenger interior, will appear at the upcoming Paris Air Show, possibly to be joined by FTV7, the first CS300. That might help Bombardier’s order book, which was stagnant up until the recent flymojo announcement.
The CSeries is targeted at what Bombardier sees as a “sweet spot” in size between regional jets, such as its own CRJ-1000 and the Embraer E-jets, and the larger, single aisle planes from Boeing and Airbus. However, any time advantage that the CSeries enjoyed over its larger rival, the Airbus A320neo series, has likely been erased by today’s EIS delay announcement. The A320neo has been reengined with the same Pratt & Whitney engine as on the CSeries, and is expected to enter service this fall.
In addition to the challenges of getting the CSeries ready for service, Bombardier has suffered from recent financial and structural turmoil. At the recent Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood WA, industry guru Richard Aboulafia commented to Skies Magazine. “It’s one of the biggest mysteries in the business, whether [the CSeries] can be salvaged without a lot of damage to adjacent product lines, and the overall corporation’s health. It’s a good plane, but that’s really beyond the debate,” said Aboulafia.