Bombardier, the last large scale Canadian planemaker, flew its new C Series aircraft in Toronto on Thursday as the struggling company looks to turn around its fortunes and grab share from rivals Airbus and Boeing at the same time.
So far, the aircraft has completed 85% of its certification process, and it is on track to be delivered to its initial customers next year. The plane has been shown in Montreal, Paris, and other locations, but this represents the first time it was publicly flown. The new airplane is said to be particularly fuel efficient and is noticeably more quiet than any other jet on the market.
The plane uses new PW1500G engines developed by Pratt & Whitney that are designed to be both fuel efficient and significantly quieter than those used on rival aircraft. Standing on the runway the aircraft produces roughly 70 decibels of noise, which is equivalent to being on the street in city traffic. High in the air and the sound is barely noticeable from the ground.
The lower noise is an important selling point for European cities and city center airports which are close to residential areas. Bombardier hopes this feature can set it apart from Airbus and Boeing, who have traditionally dominated the narrow body jetliner market with their respective 737 and A320 programs.
Bombardier officials did not offer any updates on new orders for the plane at the event, but did say that they are optimistic due to the heavy interest in the aircraft. Bombardier president Fred Cromer stated, “It is natural for customers to take a wait-and-see approach.”
The C Series Program is more than $2 billion over its initial budget estimate, and it is more than two years behind schedule. The plane’s smaller version, the CS100, is expected to make its commercial flying debut for Swiss International Airlines in 2016. The first test flight of the airplane took place in September of 2013. The larger CS300 was tested last February.
Currently, Bombardier says that it has 243 confirmed orders for the airplanes plus commitments for an additional 360 planes. The company set a target of 300 orders before the plane enters commercial flying service.
Bombardier officials maintain confidence that the goal can still be achieved. However, Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare says that the program can be a success even if the target is not reached. That being said, many analysts are skeptical of some of the orders, and they believe that some deals will fall apart. One such case is that of Republic Airways, which recently stated that it might be forced to reduce the size of its fleet due to financial challenges.
Bombardier says that the C Series of airplanes might generate as much as $8 billion on an annual basis once they are in full production. This should help to offset a decline in revenue for its regional jet program which is facing stiff competition amid a slowing market.