LONDON — In advance of the Farnborough Air Show, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Fred Cromer confirmed that a potential Bombardier CS500 variant would “not necessarily” require a larger wing than the current one on the CS100 and CS300 variants, according to a report in FlightGlobal.
The report notes that when Bombardier conducted dynamic stress tests on the CSeries wing, it found that neither the CS100 nor the CS300 approached the limits of design, besides indicating that Bombardier’s focus remains on the production and rollout of the existing CSeries variants, even after Bombardier sees the first commercial flight of its CS100 later this month with SWISS.
CS500’s limiting factor is not technical feasibility
As we covered in our analysis of the CSeries program, the biggest roadblock for the CS500 is not, and has never been technical feasibility. Instead the limiting factor is cold, hard cash.
Our analysis indicates that it would cost anywhere from $1 – $1.2 billion to build a CS500, as even with no new wing needed, Bombardier would still need to stretch the aircraft and potentially strengthen other specifications of the aircraft (such as a larger fuel tank to maintain range, or the landing gear).
For an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that might not still be in business today were it not for a $1 billion equity infusion from the government of Quebec that may yet run afoul of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Even with the CSeries having crossed Bombardier’s goal of 300 firm orders before EIS (that too just barely with Air Canada firming its order less than two weeks before Farnborough), it will be a long time before each CSeries delivery is cash flow positive, let alone before Bombardier as a business is throwing off enough cash flow to build a stretched CSeries plane. Accordingly, our market intelligence indicates that Bombardier will not announce the CS500 this year at the Farnborough Air Show.
No CSeries Orders Expected at Farnborough
We also do not expect much order activity for the in-production CSeries variants at Farnborough. The most likely candidate, airBaltic (also the launch carrier for the larger CS300) firmed up 7 options for the CS300, bringing its order book to 20 airframes in all.
The other sales campaigns that we know of for the CSeries, including for example a campaign to sell the aircraft to American low-cost carrier (LCC) JetBlue, are in too early a stage to be announced right now, though there is always the chance that a letter of intent (LOI) gets hurriedly completed on the eve of the show.
That being said, with a slow show expected overall though, Bombardier might be able to steal headlines if it wins a big order or LoI for the CSeries.
If something is announced, we expect it to either be a firming of an existing LoI (perhaps from Loong Air, Air Arabia Jordan, or one of the lessors) or a new LoI from a less than settled airline (such as flymojo – the planned regional airline startup from Malaysia).
Quiet Farnborough for Other Bombardier Programs
The other Bombardier programs are also expected to have a relatively quiet airshow, though we do understand that Bombardier will announce some sort of purchase for its Q400 turboprop.
Unless this is for a customer akin to WestJet Encore (the last new large customer for the Q400), we don’t expect this to make headlines. Frankly, the current fuel price environment simply isn’t conducive for turboprops as they tend to thrive when fuel is expensive and falter when the price of Jet A is low enough to make the impact of customer preference for jet aircraft significant.
Luckily for Bombardier, our market intelligence indicates that rival ATR will probably have a slower air show after making big splashes in 2014 and 2015.
The CRJ regional jets are basically on their last legs with most U.S. legacy airlines having exhausted the large regional jet volumes allowed under existing scope clauses and contracts and the EIS of Embraer’s E175-E2 fast approaching.
In fact, we expect a slow air show throughout the regional jet space (though Embraer’s E190-E2 is making its debut at Farnborough), with no manufacturers winning anything more than a top up order for its Regional Jet product lineup.