Topic of the Week: Porter and the C Series

Jon Ostrower broke the news that Porter up in Canada had decided to order the Bombardier CS100 jet. Much to my surprise, the plan is to fly the airplane out of Toronto’s City Centre airport with it’s extremely short 4,000 foot runway. What do you think – will we ever see this actually happen?

21 Responses to Topic of the Week: Porter and the C Series

  1. Ben G says:

    On the surface, I think this could be a great move by Porter to provide service by jet. However the list of hurdles is long. The runway is currently shorter than the minimum required at MTOW, so there is going to need to be some sort of reduction of available capacity which will cut some combination of efficiency and range. Porter says they are going to ask for 2 500ft extensions to be built on the runway, but that will take years to make happen. There’s also this pesky “no jets” rule at that airport which will surely be a tough fight to have repealed no matter how quiet the C-Series is. Should they succeed in all of this, they may still have to deal with Air Canada and Westjet utilizing the new found opportunity that Porter has worked so hard to achieve. It just seems like a lot of risk and cost for the potential reward.

    • MeanMeosh says:

      I’d put the odds of extending the runways at City Centre about the same as extending/reconfiguring the runways at SFO. In other words, just slightly better than the odds of a certain warm, toasty place freezing over. Seems like their best bet would be to configure the plane Legend Airlines-style (all J class with a reduced number of seats) and try for a jet exemption.

      My guess, though, is that this never comes to fruition.

  2. Why would you buy airplanes knowing you can’t use them out of the airport you are based at?

    But couldn’t the plane itself fly out with less seats sold, but fly in with all seats filled? Don’t you need more runway to take off then to land? So sell 3/4 of the seats (or whatever number) on each outbound flight, but can sell 100pct of the seats on inbound flts.

    • to answer your second question, yes you could. However, the bigger issue is that the airport has a “No Jets” rule. They may be able to get an exemption because the jets are quieter than the current Q’s, but AFAIK, they do not yet have approval.

      Also, if you restrict seat sales, your per-seat costs start to creep up pretty quickly. Though many airlines make it work on certain routes, or offer a more premium legroom in the cabin.

    • I also see selling an uneven number of seats between the way in and the way out as a potential issue since many people fly round trop you could put more people into Toronto than you could take out, so some customers would have to leave on a competitor.

    • JVM says:

      To answer your first question, their order is conditional on getting permission to fly them out of the airport.

  3. Jon LGB says:

    Zero margin for error, less in winter weather. Second Noah’s comment.

  4. I believe that the record is either a 707 or DC-8 that took off from the OSU Airport in Colombus OH or the contractor with a similar A/C that took off from a forward air strip during the Vietnam War.

    • I was stationed on Marble Mountain Airfield Dec/1970/Dec/1971 heard stories about Seaboard DC 8 landing here’s the link, 5,000 ft runway when I was there.
      youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mId1WK6sYuk

  5. I’m guessing there’s a contingency in the purchase contract that lets Porter cancel if the airport can’t or won’t accomodate jets.

  6. chbrown03 says:

    When I first read about this and the need for runway extensions/jet exemption it reminded me of growing up in Detroit and the controversy surrounding extending the runway at Detroit City Airport to accommodate Southwest 737 service. In the end the city spent about $25 million to extend the runway, which also involved a cemetery next to the field, but didn’t come through on other promises and Southwest pulled the plug at DET in 1993 and consolidated service at DTW.

    It’s hard to say if it was worth it in the end…there are a lot of factors to why continued air service has not worked at DET. I guess this would be an example of cautionary investment by a municipal government but also to have a secondary plan by the air carrier in the event the proposed field modifications don’t materialize.

    • Arcanum says:

      There’s not much need for a city centre airport when your urban core has been basically dead for decades. Of course, having a great facility like DTW just down the road doesn’t help matters.

      • chbrown03 says:

        That may be true today but you have to consider the fact that this was between 1988 – 1993 when Detroit did have a larger population compared with now (granted it has been in decline since the 1960s) and also the catchment area for DET wasn’t just the City of Detroit…it was easier for people in suburbs like Grosse Pointe, St. Clair Shores, Warren, etc. to get to DET compared with DTW, especially when you added in the time it took to park at Metro. Also, during this time period DTW was not the world class facility it is now…Northwest’s operations out of the Davey terminal were a patchwork of cosmetic changes and additions that provided a hub operation that was congested and chaotic…and the old Smith terminal where every other airline was located was even worse. Obviously all that changed when the new terminals opened up in 2002 (Northwest/McNamara) and 2008 (North Terminal).

  7. Shindig says:

    A chartered DC-8 took off in just over 2,800 feet from an airstrip in RVN normally used by U.S. Army OV-1 Mohawks. No pax, no cabin crew, no cargo, minimum fuel. A video can be found on Youtube.com. As an army pilot at the time, I was astounded when I learned about it as small twin engine prop aircraft sometimes needed that length at MTOW on high density altitude days.

  8. Ed Kelty says:

    It’s all going to be Canadian and Ontario politics. The business plan may be great, but runway extension and changing the “no jets” rule will be essential. I have no idea what the local government officials will decide. There are local acceptance issues which the business community will probably support, versus the resistance from the bigger competition.

  9. Eric says:

    On another site, someone commented that this may be a ploy by founder/CEO Robert Dulce to ‘shop’ the airline into a merger/acquisition. Their product is freakin’ amazing…it also bleeds red. This order may get the attention of some folks in Calgary or Montreal.

  10. George says:

    Sure they can do this-if they get the exemption. They can have a full load of Pax coming and going. When going from Toronto, the fuel load won’t be that much, so there will be a range limitation. Remember, BA flies a Airbus 318 out of London City twice a day to JFK-yeah I know there is a technical stop going westbound at Shannon for fuel, and the plane is all business class, but what Porter is proposing is technically feasible-heck didn’t Wein or Alaska use to fly into and out of a 4000 ft gravel strip in Alaska?

  11. George says:

    For the Alaska portion forgot to say with a 737

  12. Joel says:

    I have not seen anyone comment on the lobbying power of Bombardier. They will do everything within their power to make this sale happen, including helping Porter get permission for runway extension and jet exemptions. Bombardier’s relationships with various levels of Canadian government is the country’s “dirty little secret” . They get everything they want — cash, regulation changes, sales and marketing support, etc. Porter will not be alone in this effort. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I wish both organzations success — the country desperately needs the competition.

  13. Matt Weber says:

    The short field performance of most aircraft is almost entirely a matter of thrust to weight ratio. QANTAS originally bought the 747SP for its short field performance. At low operating weights the 747SP has spectacular short field performance, especially if equipped with RB211-D4X engines.

    There are several ways to get the thrust to weight ratio up, one is buy bigger engines (think 737-500 with 3C engines). The other is to bring down the weight. You can either remove seats (which tends to do really ugly things to the ASM costs), or you limit range which means much smaller fuel loads. Obviously you can do both if you want.

    Let me give one of my ‘thumbnails’. A 737-700 has a nominal Empty Weight of 83,000 pounds, and an MGTOW of about 154,000 pounds. Maximum fuel carriage is about 46,000 pounds. So If I put 150 units of self loading cargo on board, that is about 33,000 pounds. or 116,000 pounds total. If the mission is only about 1000nm, the fuel load required is only about 12,000 pounds.
    So the take off weight will be far below the 154,000 pounds, in fact it is 128,000 pounds. With 7B26 engines that will reduce the runway requirement from about 5300 feet to 3700 feet. It is usually much easier to get the weight down by restricting the fuel carriage rather than the passenger count. In other words for trips up to about 1000nm and 737-700 with big engines could comfortable depart from a 4000 foot runway. The big problem is likely to be on the inbound service, particularly with a wet runway. That is actually a far bigger problem.

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