In a historic moment, Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier on Friday for the first time flew a jet that is a credible alternative to Boeing products.
The only trouble is, few carriers want the up-to-149 seat Bombardier CS300 jet, and the expense of developing it has been dragging down Bombardier.
While Boeing has faced North American-built commercial jet competition in years past – from Lockheed Martin Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Corp. before Boeing acquired it – this is the first time, since the Boeing-Airbus duopoly solidified, that a new competing jet has flown.
The Bombardier jet competes only against the bottom end of Boeing’s product line, specifically the 737 Max 7.
Right now the Bombardier plane is two years late and has won only 243 firm orders, some of which aren’t even that firm. For instance, Bombardier customer Odyssey Airlines, so far only exists on paper and is raising capital through crowd-funding. The British airline plans to start service in 2016, and plans to use only CS300s.
Compare this to Boeing’s 737 Max order book: 2,663 aircraft. Airbus’ is even larger.
While the Bombardier plane may not have many orders, it did perform well on Friday.
After taking off from Montréal–Mirabel International Airport it reached an altitude of 41,000 feet, and cruised at 255 knots.
The aircraft won’t be certified until late 2015.
“It was a thrill to see the first CS300 aircraft take to the skies for the first time and I heartily congratulate our teams for this achievement,” said Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
Bombardier Inc. plans to display its delayed CSeries aircraft at this year’s Paris Air Show, the first time that the jet will appear at the year’s biggest aviation exhibit.
“It is our intention to come to Le Bourget this year,” Rob Dewar, vice president of the CSeries program, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Mirabel, Quebec, referring to the Paris airport where the biennial show is held. “We have secured spots.”
This year’s show is scheduled for June 15 to 21.
“It’s a product that they’ve been trying to market to customers and certainly, that is a very high-profile event,” Peter Arment, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., said in a telephone interview. “It probably helps renew their effort in terms of their sales campaigns.”
The CSeries has missed international air exhibits in the last two years because of delays in its first flight and a grounding last year following an engine fire. Montreal-based Bombardier expects that the program, which is about two years behind schedule, will cost about $5.4 billion. That is $1 billion higher than the company’s estimate a year ago.
Bombardier is racing to complete flight tests on the CSeries and meet its goal of starting deliveries of the CS100 model, with a capacity of up to 125 passengers, by year-end. The CS300, with up to 160 seats, is expected to enter service six months after the CS100. The larger jet had its first flight Feb. 27.