LONDON — A UK lessor has signed a letter of intent for up to 24 CS100 CSeries jets on Saturday, just days ahead of the beginning of the 2014 Farnborough air show, at a media dinner located at the Wind Tunnel Project.
The firm, Falko, is expected to formally sign the deal at the show on Monday.
The order comes as welcome news for Bombardier, which has seen a mere trickle of commitments for its newest airplane in recent months. The last order came in February of this year, when an undisclosed, existing customer added three aircraft at the Singapore Airshow. To date, the jet has accumulated 471 commitments so far, 203 of which are firm. It is still aiming to hit 300 by the time the airplane enters service, currently expected in 2015.
Falko, formed in 2011, already owns and operates several Bombardier aircraft, including three CRJ-900 regional jets and two Q400 turboprops. Yet it is the firm’s fleet of 57 Avro RJ85/RJ100, three BAe 146s, and eight Boeing 717-200s that make this order particularly significant. These aircraft are a key target market for the CSeries as a replacement aircraft, and Bombardier are no doubt excited at the prospect of reaching more such replacement customers in partnership with Falko.
More broadly, the order should quiet rampant speculation surrounding the direction of the C-Series program, which has once again cropped up after the recent failure of the Pratt & Whitney PW 1000G engine. That failure precluded the C-Series from flying at Farnborough, and increased skepticism about a program that was already under a great deal of scrutiny.
Still, indications are that the program remains on solid ground long-term operationally, though sales will remain a challenge (and ultimately the deciding factor). As a lessor, Falko’s confidence in the aircraft is heartening, though given its market segment, the only new-build competitive options are the smaller E-Jet E2s, or the COMAC C919, neither of which performs the C-Series’ mission as effectively.
Bombardier’s timing, effectively firing the opening salvo of the show, is certainly counter to its generally muted presence at airshows. But it gave the Canadian manufacturer the opportunity to re-assert its confidence in the progress of the program at the most prestigious airshows in the world.
Yet it will be telling to see what the remainder of the week holds for the jet. Is today’s order a sign of better, perhaps even bigger, things to come, or will this wind up the CSeries’ single shot?
Either way, to customers, these types of postures are rather meaningless (and indeed customers often are able to use timing of order announcements as leverage in negotiations), but for the outside world of mainstream media and investors, the order should restore a measure of faith in the CSeries’ program that perhaps should not have been lost in the first place.