Bombardier’s C Series: C for Conspiracy…

Forget the Farnborough air show, it is not going to happen for the launch of Bombardier Aerospace’s new C Series aircraft despite all the speculation, why do I think that? Because I have just spent a week with the Montreal aerospace industry and government and none of them have a clue what is going to happen


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caption: C Series launch announcement in China? / credit: Bombardier Aerospace

Instead I am going to indulge my tendenacies as a journalist to grasp the conspiracy theory in this case and blame Bombardier’s need to generate market confidence, after its first aborted launch, by what I suspect is its own leaking of information to publicly name possible launch customers and the giving of cryptic responses to journalists questions

In a way it is so obvious that a company would launch at Farnborough but do they need too and are there other reasons why they would make the announcement on another occasion?

What we do know is that the Bombardier board gave approval for offers to be made in February, we know Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbofan and the Chinese Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) are the only named suppliers and that there is a need for 50 to 100 firm orders before any launch decision is made

Now for what we don’t know. Could they deliver that many firm orders between February and July, who are the actual launch customers and how many are there, where will its final assembly take place (they had said it would be Mirabel, Quebec but then backtracked on that decision), how does the decision to create a new division for “Commercial Aircraft” within Bombardier affect the timetable and what role will P&W and the Chinese play in the announcement or for that matter the Quebec government?

Well no one in Quebec can tell you, that is my conclusion after spending a week there. So why was I so harsh with my first comment on what the aerospace industry and local government bodies know or don’t know regarding C Series’ launch?

Because it became apparent that what I was seeing was not a lot of people in the know with me at the centre of multiple well informed sources all corroborating each other, rather I had different people who had read the same media reports reflecting back at me what was already in the public domain. Even the local government bodies, who have recently submitted their support package proposal for a Mirabel based final assembly factory to Bombardier, are out of the loop

It is an odd feeling when you meet people in senior positions in the Quebec government involved in industrial policy, who talk to the aerospace industry on a very regular basis, and you realise that they are asking you if Bombardier will launch at Farnborough!

It is not that I didn’t give them the option to tell me “off the record.” It would have been so simple for them to tell me and I could have written that “Quebec aerospace sources confirm” but no, no joy.

So what is my conspiracy theory that answers all these questions and begins with the confidence building leaking of information? Well I can’t get away from how political aerospace is, whether it is WTO subsidy busting decisions or regions fighting for foreign direct investment or government programmes ready to place billions of US dollars with one company or another

So I think everyone has overlooked the involvement of the Chinese. Let’s not forget that AVIC is providing the fuselage for the C Series. This is not some APU component or subassembly, this is a serious chunk for an aircraft whose manufacturer claims challenges Boeing and Airbus’ A320 and Boeing 737 replacements

And then there is the other really political aspect, the final assembly location decision, one more factor that is linked to the first aborted launch attempt and I would argue its resolution is required to build that confidence in the programme. Talking to Quebec’s government officials I know that they have just submitted their proposal and this is not the sort of decision that gets made within a month

And what about those firm orders? Is 51 firm orders a good public relations move when you have declared you need 50 to 100. Come one, let’s face it they need 75 bare minimum and above to show that this is an aircraft with strong demand – and so I am going to stick my neck out and say that they need longer than six months to get those nailed down with documents ready to be signed at the launch by the parties involved and all the related press releases and promotional material approved

Promotional material approved, you may ask? Yes, people forget that for any decision, any major corporate action a whole series of small supporting activities have to be carried out and my inquisition of Bombardier, local government and its suppliers while in Quebec just leads me to believe that with just one month to go before Farnborough there is not enough in place for this much anticipated event

However there is one factor in this that could upset the apple cart, the creation of the new Bombardier “Commercial Aircraft” division; surely a supporting action and timely considering a Farnborough announcement?

 Why do it now? It is a question that flummuxed Bombardier’s senior spokesman but I think that its announcement is simply another aspect of this confidence building work to enable them to get orders

So with all that what is the picture I see emerging from the jigsaw puzzle of leaks, confirmed facts, denials and ignorance?

Well, you heard it here first, C Series will launch with Chinese and Quebec government representatives and China Southern as the lead launch customer at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition that will be held from 4-9 November in Zuhia, Guangdong

But then again, I could be wrong :-)

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5 Responses to Bombardier’s C Series: C for Conspiracy…

  1. Nicolas 9 June, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    …And the final assembly line will be in China, wings will be made in Korea, the cockpit will be assembled in Toronto from pieces manufactured in Missouri, the tail section in Mirabel, the doors in Montréal, electrical harnesses will be made in Mexico, flaps will be made in Belfast, the engine struts will be made by Learjet, and Bombardier will receive loans and/or tax breaks from Québec, Ontario, Canada, Kansas, Missouri, Mexico, Korea, China and the U.K. for that. They will just have needed all that time to persuade everybody that it was wotrh it…

    (wild guessing, of course)

  2. chicodrake 1 December, 2008 at 5:41 am #

    Wait a minute. Isn’t that a Dornier 728 jet with winglets?

  3. Penisa 28 December, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    dangerous line buddy. yearning to get more from your side :)

  4. Robert Sie 31 March, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    They’ve got their 50 aircraft now – Lufthansa (30) and Lease Corporation International (20). A global recession there may be but the stark fact is oil prices will hit $150 and beyond when things recover in 3 – 5 yrs. The clammer for fuel efficiency then will make the service timing for the c-series impeccable. Boeing/Airbus won’t have anything to match it till 2020. Bombardier have played their cards right and will have a good 5 -7 year window to capitalise on their advantage. In the 110-130 configuration, with no competiton or competitor with a comparable advantage – not Mitusubshi, Sukhoi, Embraer or ARJ – means the trickle of orders could turn into a torrent. It could well include legacy and premium airlines.

  5. Ted Costopoulos 14 May, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Boeing did start transatlantic flying and I do think that that Boeing will be the KING in the sky.

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