MIAMI — Iraqi Airways signed a firm commitment for five Bombardier CS300 CSeries jets along with options for up to 11 more of the same for a total of sixteen airplanes on Wednesday.
The agreement solidifies a letter of intent that the carrier had signed with the Canadian jet manufacturer at the Dubai Airshow last month. Iraqi has said that they intend to utilize the airplanes to replace the carrier’s existing fleet of Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jets to address capacity concerns. There is, at present, no anticipated date for entry into service, reflecting growing concerns over the progress of the CSeries program.
Bombardier stopped publicly announcing entry into service dates since the program missed a planned first flight window in July of this year. The airplane later went on to complete its maiden flight in mid-September, but has spent much of its time on the ground since. It still has yet to crack the one dozen mark.
The lack of test flights has been compounded by difficulty getting multiple test aircraft into the skies over Montreal. So far only one of a planned five airplanes has entered the program. The second aircraft, dubbed FTV2 (or flight-test-vehicle 2) is expected to go airborne in the next few weeks. The third aircraft, which will test avionics, currently has no window set for first flight. It is, however, expected to join over the winter.
If there have been any major problems with the airplane Bombardier has yet to leak any details. The company has shrugged off concerns over air-time, repeatedly stating that time spent aloft is merely a validation of testing done on the ground. Yet analysts and industry insiders agree that the delays are likely to push back the last known planned entry into service, which had been set for mid 2014.
The program received two additional set backs this week as well. Chet Fuller, Bombardier’s former top salesman for the CSeries, abruptly left the company on Tuesday. Bombardier did not provide much in the way of details, though a spokesman told the Montreal Gazette that “management decided he should leave…[and that]…after discussions, it was by common accord.”
During Fuller’s tenure the Cseries order book expanded to 419 total commitments from 16 customers, though well under half are firm.
Meanwhile, several hundred miles away in Toronto, the city legislature is set to consider whether to allow jets into the cities downtown island airport. Canadian airline Porter has been pushing the city to open the airport, currently limited to propeller aircraft only, to jets. Canada’s Globe and Mail reports that the airline’s proposal has run into increasing opposition from city councillors opposed to the plan.
Should Porter’s drive to bring jets to the airfield fall through, the carrier’s commitment for thirty CSeries aircraft may fall through with it. Porter ordered the jets, which are billed to have significantly lower noise levels, on the condition that Toronto open the airport to jet traffic.