MIAMI — Ahead of the first Delta Airbus A220-100 inaugural flights tomorrow, we go back to the June 2013 issue of the magazine to look at the rollout of the CSeries.

READ MORE: Onboard the SWISS CSeries Inaugural Revenue Flight

Airways’ Chris Sloan will be onboard one of the inaugural flights tomorrow, so look out for our coverage!

On Thursday, March 7, 2013, Bombardier Aerospace unveiled the first example of the CSeries in a ‘Program Update’ event in Montréal.

This ultra-fuel-efficient, composites construction, geared turbofan-powered aircraft with a modern passenger cabin is the first western ‘clean sheet design’ in the regional category in a decade.

More significantly, it attempts to create a new class that could one day challenge the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families’ duopoly.

Bombardier is not new to innovation. In 1991, it In spite of high operating costs, the CRJs were the introduced the Canadair Regional Jet, the first modern 50-seat twin, based on the Challenger 600 business jet, a program that had challenged

the finances of its manufacturer and led to that company’s acquisition by Bombardier (Airways, March 2001). The CRJ100/200 became a phenomenal success for both Bombardier and its airline customers.

A total of 938 were in service by the time production ended in mid-2006 (the basic CRJ200 continued to trickle off the line until 2011 as the Challenger 850 biz-jet).

In an era of far lower fuel prices and booming economic growth, the General Electric CF34 turbofan-powered CRJs threatened to vanquish turboprop equipment to the boneyards, including Bombardier’s own Dash 8 (inherited from its acquisition of De Havilland Canada).

In spite of high operating costs, the CRJs were the perfect feeder for major airline hubs and could also redraw networks with new city pairs.

While hardly comfortable, passengers preferred the smoother ride of a pure-jet. Regional airlines such as American Eagle, SkyWest, and Atlantic Southeast Airlines climbed to new heights, and the CRJ’s success prompted Embraer of Brazil to launch the rival ERJ 145.

With today’s stratospheric fuel prices, the 50-seat RJ party has come to an end and, ironically, the less-thirsty turboprops have undergone a renaissance.

Bombardier was first to explore larger RJs when it considered a bid in the mid-Nineties for the struggling Dutch manufacturer Fokker, which produced the Rolls-Royce Tay-powered 70/100 twin-jets.

Instead, in 1997 it launched a stretched version of the CRJ200, the 66/78-seat CRJ700 that entered service in 2001.

The Canadian company then promoted the 90/110-seat BRJ-X (Bombardier Regional Jet eXpansion), with a similar configuration to the CSeries, with BMW Rolls-Royce BR715, CFM56-9, and Pratt & Whitney PW6000 all powerplant contenders.

This project was abandoned in 1999 in favor of stretching the CRJ700 into the 90-seat CRJ900. Deliveries of the even longer CRJ1000 began in December 2010.

Intended to compete with Embraer’s 80/120-seat E-Jets (Airways, December 2009, January 2007, December 2005 & July 2004), the stretched CRJs are a substantial improvement over the original 50-seaters in terms of efficiency and comfort, although the narrow 2-2 cross-section remains unchanged.

By March 2013, 349 CRJ700s had been produced, along with 266 CRJ900s and 66 CRJ1000s.

Outstanding orders for the latter types total 65 and 38 aircraft, respectively. Embraer has delivered 354 ERJ 170/175s, with orders held for 96 more, and 596 ERJ 190/195s, plus another 117 on order.

Clearly Embraer has gained the edge in the larger- class RJs. So, with momentum shifting to its formidable Brazilian competitor, Bombardier needed to respond.

In March 2005 Bombardier announced the CSeries (comprising the C110 and C130; the ‘C’ standing for ‘competitive, continental, and connector’).

Structurally, the majority of the fuselage would be constructed of light-weight aluminium-lithium (Al-Li) alloys, with the wing and empennage of composite material. Similar in cross-section to that of the BRJ-X, the cabin of the CSeries retained five-abreast seating.

The 100/125-seat C110 would compete directly with the 122-seat E-195, and secondarily with the 717, 737- 600, and A318 (all three since discontinued). With between 120 and 145 seats, the stretched C130 would be moving into A319/737-700 territory.

In spite of having secured financing from the government of Canada, its home Province of Québec, and the United Kingdom (where it had established a manufacturing presence in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the takeover of Short Brothers), Bombardier put the CSeries on hold on January 31, 2006, after failing to attract sufficient orders. Instead, the company concentrated on the CRJ1000 for a year.

Late in 2007, Bombardier confirmed that an entirely new engine—the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan—would be the exclusive powerplant for the airplane, and from February 22, 2008, the CSeries was formally offered to customers. That July, the program was officially launched at the Farnborough Air Show with an order from Lufthansa for 30 aircraft, plus 30 options (Airways, October 2008).

Bombardier also announced that final assembly would take place on a new line alongside the CRJ at Mirabel Airport.

The wings and center fuselage section would be built in Belfast; forward and aft fuselage barrels, as well as the cockpit, to be supplied by Bombardier’s St-Laurent plant; and the rear fuselage by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Aviation Industry Corporation. Other suppliers include Italian 787 contractor Alenia (horizontal and vertical stabilizers); Zodiac (seating, bins, and cabin furnishings); and Rockwell Collins (avionics).

In March 2009 the two variants were restyled CS100 and CS300, the latter receiving its first order from Lease Corporation International of Dublin.

Bombardier has announced firm orders for 148 CSeries (including 82 CS300s), plus 234 commitments, but is confident of having 300 orders from 20 customers by the time the CS100 enters service (at the time of writing in June 2013).

Development costs are estimated at $3.4 billion which, with list prices in the $58-$68 million range, place break-even around 500 airframes. The company forecasts a market of 19,000 aircraft over the next 20 years and expects to capture up to half of those sales with the CSeries.

The proof will be in the pudding, and the pudding is definitely to a new recipe. Bombardier claims CSeries advantages of 15% and 20% in cash operating costs and fuel burn, respectively, over the existing E-Jets and other competitors. This is in addition to 25% direct maintenance cost savings.

Environmental benefits run a close second. Bombardier promises the CSeries will produce 50% fewer NOx emissions relative to the competition, with a four times quieter noise footprint.

These gains are achievable because 70% of the airframe is constructed of advanced materials, resulting in an operating weight empty up to 12,000lb (5,500kg) less than similar size airliners, and the use of the high-bypass PW1500G.

The CS100 has a range of 2,950nm (5,460km) with 110 passengers, a takeoff field length of 4,000ft (1,210m), an operating ceiling of 41,000ft (with 8,000ft cabin pressurization), and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 129,000lb (58,510kg). MGTOW for the CS300, which has had a one-row stretch for a 135-passenger baseline, is 144,000lb (65,315kg).

Until the arrival of Embraer’s E-Jets, the passenger experience in RJs was often ignored. The E-Jets set a new standard with a 2-2 cabin that allowed for wider seats than even A320s and 737s.

They were also designed for seatback in-flight entertainment from the start. The CSeries claims to bring a wide-body feel to a narrow-body class with 5-10% wider seats (the middle seat is 10% wider than the aisle or window ones). Besides large windows, the CSeries introduces ‘mood-lighting’ and large overhead bins to the regional market.

At the unveiling event Michele (Mike) Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, confirmed the 160-seat extra capacity seating option for the CS300 that was offered at last year’s Farnborough Air Show to AirAsia (which stayed with the A320).

The increase is achieved by using Zodiac slimline seats with 28in (71cm) pitch and adding another set of over-wing emergency exits. AirBaltic is the first of three customers to choose the option, but has selected a 148-seat layout.

With the option (which can be retrofitted to all CS300s), Bombardier claims a passenger-seat- mile-cost comparable to 180-seaters such as the popular 737-800 and A320, although it maintains that the target ‘sweet spot’ of the CSeries remains the 100/149-seat market.

Significantly, Arcamone adds, “If we ever decide to stretch, we have the capability.” Indeed, this has been a hallmark of Bombardier with the CRJ series.

First flight of the CS100 was originally set for the second half of 2012 and then moved to December 2012, with deliveries beginning by the end of 2013. A first flight is now slated for no later than June 30.

If the 12-month flight test and certification program is not extended, deliveries will commence around the third quarter 2014. The CS300 is expected to be airborne next year, with deliveries from 2015.

Even though Lufthansa is the launch customer, with early deliveries going to Swiss European Air Lines to replace Avro RJs, Bombardier says that the CS100 will be introduced into service by an ‘undisclosed customer’.

This buyer, which has orders for ten (plus six options), is ‘a major network carrier, one of the oldest in the world’.

In response to the CSeries, Embraer considered a fresh design but followed Bombardier’s earlier approach and chose the conservative route.

A second generation of E-Jets will have a new wing and a slightly taller landing gear to accommodate the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan, similar to that of the CSeries. The new E-Jets should appear between 2016 and 2018.

Bombardier has changed the game before, and the industry knows better than to bet against the Canadians.

Responding to a question about taking on the Airbus/ Boeing duopoly, Mike Arcamone says, in a not thinly veiled reference to the upcoming A320neo and 737 MAX, “This is a real aeroplane not a paper airplane.

This is not a re-engined aircraft but a new aircraft with a proven mix of new and proven technology. We will be there and we will win.”