Crawling Around the Newly-Certified Bombardier C-Series

Bombardier

The Bombardier C-Series just received certification in Canada last week, and testing is progressing nicely. The airplane passed through Long Beach recently, and I was invited to hop on board to check it out for myself. No, I didn’t actually get to fly on it, but I did get to see that’ll it’ll be a really nice passenger experience. I took a bunch of photos to share with you here.

The C-Series is behind schedule, over budget, and lacking a sizable order book. But with new funding from Quebec and rumors about a potential order from United on the horizon, the chances are increasing that you may see it in actual service within the US. (Yes, Republic has 40 on order, but it has nobody to fly them for.) The airplane is on track for first delivery to Swiss next year.

There are two versions of the C-Series, the CS100 and the CS300. The CS100 will hold around 100 to 125 with the CS300 holding about 20 seats more than that. So it’s in that spot filled (not particularly well) by large regional jets and small 737s/A320s. It’s the equivalent of the 717 that Delta flies around today. When I walked outside and saw the airplane, the first things I noticed were the engines on this bad boy.

CSeries Pratt and Whitney

Those are Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans which are extremely efficient. (The numbers so far show this airplane to be a fuel-sipping rockstar.) The engines are incredibly high bypass. In the picture below, you can see a ton of daylight passing through.

Pratt GTF

Soon it was time to head upstairs. I love this view on any airplane, but it’s even better with the sticker saying it isn’t certified. Guess they’ve peeled that one off by now.

Bombardier C Series Fuselage

Let’s start with the cabin. The airplane is built for 5 seats across. The seats are all designed to be 18.5 inches wide (more than an inch wider than the 737’s seats) with the middle seat at 19 inches and the aisle a generous 20 inches in width. It feels spacious. And if you’re wondering, it’s not wide enough to cram a 6th seat in there. The airlines won’t like that, but passengers certainly will.

C Series Cabin

You might notice that this doesn’t have the feel of a regional jet at all. Look at the bins on this thing. On the two-side, those fit standard roller bags flat. But on the three side, it’ll take them on their sides. With only 5 abreast, this should have plenty of capacity.

C Series Overhead Bins

I don’t really care about the seats themselves since these are just demo seats (though the widths are the same for all current orders). But this shot does give you a look at the windows. They’re huge. Not only are they huge, but they’re also spaced closely together. So every seat will have an awesome view. (This particular row is set at a tight 30 inch pitch so you can see how good the visibility is. They had rows with different pitches throughout the cabin.)

C Series Big Windows

Now take a look out that window. Ok, so there’s nothing overly unique here, but I just love that view on any airplane.

C Series Wing

While we’re on the side of the airplane, look at the sidewall angle. It’s fairly vertical for an airplane of this size thanks to the way the aircraft was designed. It means better shoulder room than you’d expect.

C Series Fuselage Curvature

There are also a couple of full size lavs on the airplane that don’t require contorting yourself to use. Lastly, let’s head up front. This isn’t necessarily something that impacts the passenger experience, but look at the cockpit. It’s incredible how clean a modern cockpit looks when it’s designed from scratch.

C Series

I had the chance to speak with the pilot you see at left at length about his experience flying the airplane so far. He loves it (though he’s obviously biased). Still, he pointed out a ton of features showing how intuitive the design is and how it’ll make it easy to fly.

The C-Series has had a tough time getting traction with airlines so far, but as a passenger, I hope we see this thing flying. It looks like it’s designed to be a really nice ride.

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36 comments on “Crawling Around the Newly-Certified Bombardier C-Series

  1. Any idea why it’s having a tough time getting traction? Is it that mainlines don’t have any Bombardier aircraft, so Bombardier doesn’t have leverage to get in to large orders? Is it that it’s a completely new design from a company with no mainline track record, so the airlines are nervous about whether it will meet its operating cost claims? Is it overpriced? Or is there just a very small market for 100-125 seat planes given mainline pilot labor costs, unless you can get them really cheap like DL got the 717s?

    In a similar vein, I’m surprised and disappointed to see how few E190s are flying; they’re fabulous planes from a passenger point of view and I thought are awfully fuel efficient.

    1. You’re pretty much right. BBD has drove us batty with all the merits of this revolutionary newest on market plane that’s moving slower than a snail. It’s just another planet with plastic wings and a lot of hype. With all the newest tech the maker has yet to make a market buzz. I’m wondering if it’s the plane’s potential buyers are avoiding or the infrastructure that comes with it. I wonder if it ends up with the D728 which I think it’s a copy of. Check for pictures of the 728 and check the similarities. The interior is like a carbon copy. BTW, the 728 was also a revolutionary plane that was killed in action.

    2. Alex Hill – I think it’s a lot of those things combined. Bombardier has built what appears to be a very good airplane, and I think the arrogance at the company prevented them from offering deals as good as they should have. Management has changed, so hopefully the attitude has as well. But we’ll never know anyway.

      In the US, it is too big to be flown by regionals and smaller than what mainline airlines would generally want to fly, as others have said. But that’s changing and Delta’s 717s (now supplemented by Embraer 190s) are just the tip of the iceberg on that. We are going to see more.

  2. The market for 100-120 seat aircraft has never been very good. The niche there just isn’t very large for some reason and has left a number of corpses of companies that have tried to fill it. Fokker and Dornier for starters. The 717 wasn’t exactly a barn burner either. So you have a niche that hasn’t done very well traditionally. Add to it an entirely new generation of engine with no track record (and it remains to be seen just how reliable the GTF will be). The current generation of CF34 engines that powers the 737 and many A320’s now often reach 30,000 hours on the wing before requiring overhaul, are reliable to an extent that 20 years ago no one would have thought possible. The Aircraft itself is built around new technology, whose reliability and life expectancy are also relatively unknown. While the same can be said for the A350 and 787, both are backed by companies with huge resources to deal with any problems, and both have a very long reputation for building very reliable and long lived products (proven by experience, not computer simulation).

    So the real issues fall into two categories. Problems with the size of the aircraft, and lack of any industry experience with an all new type. Many all new aircraft have had serious ‘teething’ problems (witness the A340 and the 787) as the customers find things to do with them, and ways to do them that are well within the specifications, but were never tried in development (and unfortunately, often don’t work very well).

    This doesn’t mean the aircraft is bad, or it won’t sell, it does mean that there are very serious obstacles to be overcome, and many of them will require actual operator experience with the type before they will be laid to rest. If the aircraft enters service and demonstrates reliability and operating cost advantages, sales will likely mount rapidly. Until the aircraft is in service however, sales are likely to be very slow.

    1. Technical correction here, but I assume you mean CFM56 as the engine on the 737 and A320, not CF34. The CF34 is what powers the Bombardier CRJ, Embraer E-Jets, and Comac ARJ21.

  3. The company rides high on arrogance and audacity. They have all levels of government in their back pockets threatening them with thousands of job losses as well as the keepers of Canada’s aerospace industry. They’ve burned $5 billion and are prepared to mooch 3 more from the stupid taxpayers.

    1. Remember, airlines don’t purchase aircraft for the customer experience, they buy them to make more money.

      I gotta wonder if part of the reason the size is a tough niche is because of labor costs. It’s too big for the lower regional pay scales, but too small to properly amortize mainline rates cost effectively.

  4. I think the biggest problem for this aircraft in North America are scope clauses. To big to be flown by a regional, too small to effectively do it with mainline staff. Airlines that don’t have the same type of scope clause are likely the biggest target.

    Also, just as this new Ultra-efficient airliner hits the market, the price of fuel drops by 2/3. Suddenly a 737, 717 or A319 doesn’t seem so inefficient.

    1. Perhaps Alaska will bite. It’s one of the few North American carriers without a scope clause (yet) in their pilot contract.

      1. Then they’d have to scrape their “Proudly All Boeing” label from their mainline 737s. Not that it isn’t BS since they own Horizon and the Q400s and, presumably proudly, have Skywest fly CR7s and ERJs for them.

        1. I could see AS having QX operate the C-Series. Although it is a bit big of a plane. Does Bombardier have a shrink planned?

  5. The saving grace of the C-Series may be it’s range. It can open up long thin routes other 100 seat a/c can only dream about. Or increase frequency on longer n/b routes. I’m optimistic it will find its niche once in service.

    1. I think you’re right. There’s (another) business-class only start-up – Odyssey Airlines, looking to run these from London City Airport to East Coast of US (New York and Toronto initially). They have 10 on order, have been crowdfunding start-up capital, and have plans to expand this concept to other European cities once it takes off (hopefully avoiding the carcasses of other airlines convinced the biz class-only model was a long-term bet).

      Odyssey are (currently) scheduled to commence operations some time next year.

  6. It is so obvious that you are an airline geek and I truly enjoy reading your views. I hope that the C-Series somehow makes it into service to either PWM or BGR. I’d detour to check one out.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Brett.

  7. Fine, I fly for the customer experience, not just so some airline can make money. I don’t fly just to take advantage of the lowest fare. I look for value. If you can’t make money giving me value, find another line of business.

    I’m 6’2″, so if I can’t stand up walking down the cabin aisle, or I don’t have at least a 31″ seat pitch, you’re not getting me as a customer, unless there is not other choice.

    If you are going to operate the flight with someone other than by yourself, like with someone you call a “dba”, you are not going to get my business, unless I have no other choice.

    Other than that, good luck!

  8. What will be interesting to me is to see how the GTF engine fares in ultra short hop, high frequency operations. If it fares well, then we might have a potential replacement for the 717 at Hawaiian.

  9. Another thing working against the C-Series is commonality. Flight crews on a 737 can fly the -700, -800, or 900. The A320 family is the same. You can’t put an A320/737 pilot on a C-Series. The airline has to invest in setting up a cadre of pilots unique to the airplane from both a scheduling and training perspective. This is expensive. On the maintenance side, you have the same problem. Spare parts, mechanic training, maintenance scheduling are all unique for this airplane and require added cost.

    I see United acquiring the E190. They don’t need the range the C-Series offers to connect passengers to their hubs. The E190 is an efficient and comfortable airplane. Yes, they incur the same crew training cost as the C-Series, but they can benefit from the significant maintenance infrastructure available for the E175s, which is common to the E190 and operated by their regional partners.

    I also don’t see United being interested in taking the residual value risk of acquiring an airplane that is a dud in the marketplace. They want the airplanes to have some value at the end of their useful life at United.

    1. Jamzz – Commonality is an issue, but the 737-600 and A318 are so inefficient that they aren’t really options. So there won’t be any commonality with the rest of the narrowbody fleet regardless.

      Regarding United, remember that the CS100 is still about 15 seats bigger than the Embraer 190. That’s a big difference and it means that United might find one more attractive than the other depending upon what missions they want to use the airplane for. Plus, I have to think that Bombardier is going to get incredibly aggressive to win this order. (They should, at least.)

      1. Another point against the E190 is the types poor reliability record. The cost of parts is high (more expensive than the 320) and they need a lot more maintenance. I know for a fact that both JetBlue and Air Canada have been unhappy with Embraer over this and I strongly suspect that’s the reason Air Canada dumped their 190’s off on Boeing.

      2. No question on the 737-600 and A318. The market has spoken there. But, if you are a 737/A320 operator, you might be willing to have a slightly too big 737-700 or A319 on a market rather than deal with the complexity of bringing the C-Series in.

        Going back to the E135/E145 order, United/Continental is one of Embraer’s largest customers. I don’t see them letting an opportunity to sell the E190 and E190 E2 to United slip away because of pricing. Yes, AC and JB had issues with reliability, but I believe they took early deliveries. Reliability has improved.

  10. Why not wide enough for six abreast? Trim 6 inches from the aisle and 2 inches off of each seat (2.5 from the middle) and presto, you have six 16.5-inch seats with a 14-inch aisle. I’m sure some airlines would go for it. After all, the cabin is 5.5 inches wider than the DC-9.

    1. Anon – Yes, I asked that very question. They said that when they designed the cockpit from scratch, the yoke just took up too much space. They lost a ton of computer screen space when the yoke was there and it made it hard to put everything where they wanted to place it. So the side stick won.

  11. So, if it is equivalent to the 717, did Boeing make a mistake in discontinuing the 717 rather than making it more fuel efficient?

  12. As soon as I see Bombardier, I think about those miserable CRJs and then tune everything else out. I hate their planes. Just hate them.

    OTOH, doesn’t the C-jet compete with the 717 (I know not being produced), the A318, and the 737-600? Why would I buy a plane from Bombardier when I can get the same thing from Airbus or Boeing?

      1. Nick-

        Same here. I actually prefer small planes, especially the EAS planes (love being able to look over the pilot’s shoulders on a 7 seater, and I enjoy any turbulence that doesn’t cause someone to lose their lunch). I will take a Q400 over a RJ, but I still prefer RJs to mainline planes for flights under 3 hours, as I love not having to play rollerboard jenga in the overhead bins (wish I could gate check my bag on the bigger planes!), and also appreciate how fast it is to get on and off the 50 seat planes.

      2. I agree as well. Although, I’m not a fan of the CRJ’s myself. I much prefer the ERJ 135/140/145 series since they have the 1 and 2 seat configuration. If I’m flying alone, I love being able to choose to sit by myself. Also, on the ERJ’s, the windows seem to be better aligned and I love the engine sounds from them.

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