Topic of the Week: The C-Series, Its Rock Star Performance, And Its Lack of Orders

Bombardier

It’s no secret that Bombardier’s C-Series has had a slow start, to put it mildly. But the airplane could be gaining some steam. The airplane was billed as being incredibly quiet, very fuel efficient, and able to fly long range. Now it turns out that it should be even better than advertised. But as the airplane flies around Paris this week, it still lacks a lot of orders. With ramped up performance and a new management team pushing harder, will the C-Series finally start to sell?

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19 comments on “Topic of the Week: The C-Series, Its Rock Star Performance, And Its Lack of Orders

  1. Swiss picking this up certainly makes ZRH a bit more interesting as a connecting point. If only one didn’t have to fly UA to get there from IAD.

  2. I would assume that with the teething issues on the 787, airlines are wary of buying large number of airplanes with some tech that is a big ahead in terms of innovation. Plus, it seems many were critical of the (bold!) improvement claims and got their load of E-Jets to fill capacity. The improvements over the target being so large, I assume not many expected that and it will take some time to get new fleet plans in order.

    But as things are coming together, the CS does look really, really interesting and I believe its an interesting pointer that Swiss converted some CS100 orders into CS300s to replace their A319s. I am confident now that sales should pick up soon. IIRC the E-jets did not sell very well (although better than the CS) at the beginning as well, until they were somewhat proven by some first operators.

  3. I remember an airline prior to the merger that had a mock up of the C-series at their training facility. The c-series was going to be the replacement for the aging t-tail fleet of aircraft. I think the aircraft will take off and will become a popular aircraft and rival of the major manufacturers.

    I agree with Hermann that the grounding of the 787 has made airlines make more sound decisions after the aircraft has become a proven piece of technology. I am happy to hear that the performance of the aircraft is better than originally advertised.

  4. If I were running an airline and already had a mess of 737’s and 320’s in their various sizes in my fleet and wanted to grow my fleet in the 100-130 seat capacity it seems the MAX/NEO versions from the big duopoly would give me fleet commonality and the efficiency (on paper) gains I need. Nothing against Bombardier but the regionals have tons of their metal, the mainline operators not so much.

    Not saying the WN attitude of a total fleet commonality is the best solution but for example why would an operator like DL want the 717, 737, 320, MD-80/90 AND the CS-series in their fleet? Holy hell the logistics of that is crazy complicated.

  5. I wish them the best of luck! It is a beautiful aircraft. Unfortunately Bombardier has a bad rap due to the misery of the CRJ200 but the later series are quite comfortable and quiet. I’ve had the opportunity to fly Porter a number of times out of Midway and enjoy the Q400 as well. I’d love to see more Bombardier planes in the sky!

    1. Agreed. I will take the Q400 turboprop over a RJ for flights <700 miles any day.

      That said, I think the general public still has bad impressions of turboprop planes that the marketing has yet to overcome, similar to how some people in the US still view diesel cars negatively.

  6. Maybe they should just offer a big carrier a super sweet heart deal just to build clout for their product and get it on the market. Southwest could deploy these in their short hauls to free up the bigger planes for all the long haul flying they have been adding.

    1. I don’t really see Southwest as being interested in the C-Series. When they first acquired AirTran they talked about doing the same thing with the 717, but not long later they changed their tune and subleased the whole fleet to Delta.

  7. I have to wonder if they’re just late to market. The MRJ is already stacking orders and the E190 is doing ok. As others have said, I think it’s hard to justify adding another manufacturer on an unproven aircraft after the 787.

    1. There’s no such thing as “late to market”. Fleets always need replacing. Earlier models get earlier orders, and later models use newer tech/better performance to steal later orders.

      Also, The MRJ and E-190 (2+2) are not in the same class as the C-Series (2+3), which is a true narrowbody. Both of those, by the way, are way behind the CS family. MRJ hasn’t flown, E2s haven’t been built, and the CS100 and CS300 are nearing certification.

      Let’s also not forget that the C-Series has more orders upon certification (*pending) than almost all commercial aircraft ever built. It only looks bad compared to recent models from the 2 Duopoly Manufacturers.

  8. From everything I’ve read, it seems this particular size aircraft has many economic challenges (especially in the area of unit costs), even though it seems to be a good fit for many routes.

    1. I agree with that. The problem is the CSeries is in a blackhole of size, being too big to run on low volume flights, and too small to run on intermediate sized flights. Given an option, wouldn’t you just buy a 737/A320? Or a regional jet, of which there are far too many competitors for?

  9. Bombardier is a serious company with a competent staff of engineers. Their problem is that airlines cannot decide on what size planes they want for intermediate routes. The big competition seems to be from Embrarer rather than Boeing. The Swiss acquisition is a great endorsement, but we should not forget that Porter is going to fly them from the downtown Toronto airport to the US. Others may follow when they see the fuel advantages. it was a wise move to slightly underestimate the initial performance figures. Topping them is always better than failing to meet expectations.

    Bombardier is an interesting company which started with Snowmobiles. We think of them as recreation vehicles, but if you go to the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, you will see a Bombardier Snowmobile that is basically a truck that goes on ice to bring back the winter fish harvest from frozen lakes in Western Canada. They make CRJs and bought Lear, but also make railcars all over the world in Chicago, New York, Asia, and Europe. So the company is not cash starved which might force them to scrimp on their aviation research.

    1. Good points. Let’s not forget that in some airports and cities, one can take a Bombardier train (subway or light rail) from city center to the airport, hop on another Bombardier vehicle to get to the ticketing concourse, pass through security, then take a third Bombardier train or people mover to the correct terminal, before hopping on a Bombardier plane.

  10. To echo what others have said, I think Bombardier suffers from a) the poor reputation of its CRJ aircraft among flyers, and b) caution about teething pains after the launch of the 787. The order by SWISS is a good start, though. If the airplane starts getting strong reviews, I think you’ll see it take off, no pun intended.

    1. The CRJ and C-Series being different planes, means the people who make the orders (airlines) don’t care what PAX think about BBD planes in general.

      Teething pains are not new to the industry. In fact, anyone would happily take an early model 787 over an early Comet or DC-10 if you know what I mean. This is what launch customer discounts, etc. are for.

  11. I’m in KSA on a contract job, and I believe there’s a new airline slated to commence operations called Saudi Gulf – initially using A320s, but with a firm (?) order for 10 C-Series, with options for more. I don’t know the ownership structure (Bahrain’s Gulf Air was originally owned by a few GCC countries) but the initial focus is on intra-KSA travel, with plans to go regional soon after. There’s a real shortage of capacity within KSA, with the Aviation Authority encouraging Gulf carriers to extend operations into the Kingdom (my only trip on a 787 was Doha to Riyadh!)

    Of course Odyssey Airlines is crowdfunding for a business class only product from London City to the US, using the C-Series. Then again, I have more faith in Avatar Airlines getting off the ground than that one…

  12. Someone above mentioned that a “sweetheart deal” may be the ticket to getting a bunch of planes sold to a major carrier, which could trigger more of the market to buy in. While I don’t know its current order status, I do know of a certain airline based in the southeastern U.S. for which type commonality isn’t a concern and which thrives on “sweetheart deals”….

    1. One of the reasons for the supposed slow sales seems to be that BBD are not giving sweetheart deals out. This is a double-edged sword. You actually make good profit on the planes you do sell (unlike, say, Boeing and the 787 program, which sold well under cost), but you get less sales in the books. Most manufacturers will put up with lower profits on early models because they know after-delivery sales of parts and support make lots of money too, and there is a required market density (global # of aircraft in service) needed to guarantee a healthy second-hand market, etc, which spurs further sales.

      Also, the Delta “type commonality un-concern” you reference is probably moot. When you have a fleet of that size and scope, differentiation makes more money/sense than commonality. You just need enough of each type to make spares and training worthwhile. It’s better than using sub-optimal types on those routes.

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