TOULOUSE — Airbus has unveiled a new name and branding for the aircraft program formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries. During an event at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, Airbus announced that the aircraft would be renamed the Airbus A220.
The name was revealed as the aircraft performed a flyover in front of the crowd at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport with the second A220-300 flight test vehicle (C-FFDO).
“Everyone at Airbus has been looking forward to this historic moment. Today, we are thrilled to welcome the A220 to the Airbus family and are honored to see it wearing its new Airbus colors for the first time,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus President Commercial Aircraft.
“I pay tribute to all the women and men at Bombardier and the supply chain who have strived over the past years to bring this fantastic aircraft to the world. The A220 now enters a new phase in its career with all Airbus’ resources behind it to further its commercial success worldwide,” Faury added later.
Speaking at the event, Airbus Chief of Sale, Marketing, and Contracts Eric Shulz welcomed the A220 to the Airbus family and said: “On behalf of all of us at Airbus, we want to welcome all of our Bombardier colleagues.”
Re-Shaping the CSeries Program
The program, which has only sold 402 aircraft in its 10-year history, looks to turn a new page under Airbus leadership. With greater resources to build, market, and curb costs, Airbus hopes to turn the struggling program into the dominant 100-150 seat commercial aircraft on the market.
Robert Dewar, Head of Customer Support and Engineering for the Airbus/Bombardier joint venture highlighted the three main goals for the A220 program under Airbus: Ramp up production, increase sales, and cutting costs.
Last week, Airbus officially closed on its previously announced purchase of 50.01% of the Bombardier A220 program. On July 4, Airbus CEO Tom Enders visited the A220 final assembly site in Mirabel, Canada to welcome new Airbus employees and to celebrate Airbus’ transaction.
New A220 Assembly Line In Mobile Confirmed
As part of the Airbus CSeries/A220 program takeover, Airbus will open a second final assembly facility in Mobile, Alabama for customers located in the United States. By opening an assembly line in Mobile, Airbus hopes to avoid potential tariffs on A220 aircraft being imported into the United States.
The line, scheduled to open in 2019 and deliver in 2020, will complement Airbus’ existing A320 final assembly line in Mobile.
Currently, the Mobile line is scheduled to manufacture 50-60 A220 aircraft per year. This rate, however, is dependent upon Airbus selling enough aircraft to meet this production rate. To help facilitate the assembly line’s rapid construction, the line will share paint and delivery facilities with the existing A320 line.
To date, the A220 program has struggled to deliver a lackluster 38 aircraft to only three carriers. Swiss International Airlines currently operates 23 A220 family aircraft while airBaltic and Korean Air operate 8 and 6 A220-300 aircraft respectively.
David Dufrenois, Head of Sales for the Airbus/Bombardier joint venture said, “We wanted to achieve something for the program’s fate. Of course, there were issues and arguments. At the end of the day, this is the right thing to do for the sake of the program.”
Big expectations for Farnborough
Following today’s name change, Airbus will look to quickly real in several marquee orders for the program at the Farnborough Airshow.
On July 4, in Mirabel, Enders stated that “I’m convinced you will see the first results in the next couple of weeks as we go to Farnborough.” Then he added that “our top priority is selling the aircraft like crazy.”
One such order may come from JetBlue Airways, who is actively in discussion with Airbus and Embraer on replacing their 60 aircraft fleet of Embraer E-190s. Under Bombardier ownership, the CSeries made several visits to JetBlue’s-JFK hangar.
Bombardier’s latest visit to Jetblue occurred in March of this year and the flight test vehicle was photographed sporting the JetBlue logo on its side.
In May, existing A220 operator airBaltic announced a purchase agreement for an additional 30 A220-300 aircraft plus 30 options.
When asked why airBaltic made such a large order just weeks before Airbus’ takeover of the program, airBaltic’s CEO Martin Gauss credited an expected surge in demand for the A220.
“We could have waited, but we were of the opinion that we better buy them now to secure these (delivery) positions, not to risk that after the takeover somebody else takes (them),” said Gauss when speaking to Reuters.
When discussing the disappearing CSeries name last week, Gauss added that “I have no idea what our aircraft will be called next week. They said they will send stickers to Riga.”
Goals For The A220 Program
In addition to securing orders, Airbus will now begin the difficult task of reducing the aircraft’s cost structure. Airbus is currently having discussions with suppliers in a bid to reduce the A220’s high unit costs.
The largest CSeries supplier, United Technologies, recently increased its foothold on the CSeries supply chain with its $23 billion merger with Rockwell Collins, another A220 supplier. Airbus is hoping that suppliers will sacrifice high margins in exchange for higher volume.
As Airbus turns its attention to the Farnborough Airshow, all eyes will be glued to the A220 program. While immediate orders will not determine whether the A220 is a success, an Airshow without several impactful orders will raise questions as to whether Airbus can truly turn the A220 program around.