C-Series Launch Date 'Not Easy' - Bombardier

November 11, 2011

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Bombardier is sticking with a late-2013 launch date for its new C-Series jet, which will compete with Boeing and Airbus planes, although meeting that deadline will not be easy, a company executive said.

The aircraft maker is also holding to its forecast of 300 firm orders for the C-Series by the time the single-aisle jet enters service, said Philippe Poutissou, vice-president of marketing for Bombardier commercial aircraft.

"At this point we believe we can still deliver in 2013. It is not going to be easy," Poutissou said in an interview in Vancouver.

"It will require us to revisit our plans in some cases but there are choices we can make," he said. He did not elaborate on what plans may be revisited.

In a sector where chronic delays in the development of new planes are not unusual, a number of analysts have started questioning if Bombardier can finish the project in two years. On Thursday, Airbus pushed back the launch date for its A350 jet by six months.

Bombardier's case was not helped by comments made last month by Guy Hachey, president of its aerospace division, who said the Montreal-based company was "up against the wall in terms of schedule".

"What Guy meant was when you have 5-1/2 years of runway you have a lot more opportunity to recover," Poutissou said. "When you're down to two years, your options for recovery, the choices become much more difficult."

The C-Series is Bombardier's bold USD$3 billion stab at designing and building its biggest plane. The narrow-body jet, aimed at the 100- to 149-seat market, will put the world's number three commercial aircraft maker in direct competition with the smaller planes of industry giants Airbus and Boeing.

Orders for the C-Series have been slower than industry watchers would have liked and stopped altogether in the 16 months until June this year. Bombardier has 133 firm orders from five identified buyers, and three who have not been named.

Next week's Dubai Airshow, where Bombardier plans to unveil the C-Series' flight deck, may drum up more orders.

REGIONAL JET MARKET

The Dubai event could also be a venue for new orders for Bombardier's other regional aircraft, its CRJ family and Q400 turboprops, National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen said in a client note this week.

Specifically, it has a chance of winning an 18-plane order for its CRJ1000 jet from Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, Doerksen said. It is competing for the order with Brazil’s Embraer.

Doerksen also said he sees Bombardier as a "one of the leading contenders" for US regional airline SkyWest's upcoming fleet replacement.

Bombardier recently cut its output of CRJ aircraft as orders dropped off as the economy weakened. Earlier in the year, it scaled back Q400 production slightly.

Poutissou said the market for regional jets is more positive than during the 2008-09 financial crisis, but that it is still "a little cautious".

He said he viewed Russia as a promising market for Bombardier's CRJ and Q400 jets because of an increase in air travel demand, a booming resources sector, and the country's older aircraft fleets.

"Russia is one where the opportunity is quite urgent," he said, adding that Bombardier has recently seen interest there for its Q400 aircraft. It is now completing certification of the aircraft in Russia.

(Reuters)