With what does the Bombardier CSeries compete?

I should ‘fess up at this point and say I don’t know – which is pretty useless for an aviation blogger I suppose. But I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t know. Possibly including Bombardier.

Anyway, they’re confident enough to give authorisation to their sales team to offer the aircraft in the market. And the move was accompanied by a robust expression of support from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker; diplomatically supportive words from Lufthansa SVP fleet Nico Buchholz; and, perhaps most importantly of all, a surprisingly enthusiastic pat on the back from ILFC head Steve Udvar-Hazy. Here’s what Bombardier are now saying about the CSeries. Take a look at the interior on slide 7 – I know it’s just an artist’s impression, but that’s pretty neat for a regional airliner don’t you think.

There’s never been any question that Bombardier can sell a decent number of CSeries – the question is whether they can sell enough. Enough to justify $3.2 billion of development it now turns out.

But for Bombardier this is not just another aircraft programme – this is a profoundly important strategic corporate step that will substantially shape its business for years to come. And it has consequences beyond a simple market struggle.

I think the key question is about their competitors. Assuming the world needs plenty of aircraft in the 110-130-seat category, who is going to want to own that space. Clearly Bombardier does. But who else? Embraer would no doubt like to, but whether it wants another gloves-off, life-and-death struggle with Bombardier for every order ’til the end of time, I’m not so sure. Boeing and Airbus don’t particularly want to – I think – but they are watching Bombardier with forensic attention to detail because they can see that for the Canadians the only way is up – in every sense. But in terms of aircraft size – up how far?

There is a school of thought that sees Bombardier and Embraer inevitably teaming with Boeing and Airbus one way or another. Not because anyone really wants to do that, but because it’s unavoidable for all concerned. Bombardier and Embraer can’t grow in the long-term without impinging on the heavy market; Boeing and Airbus can’t allow new competitors to attack them from below. And nobody wants the Russians, Chinese or Japanese to eat their lunch.

I suspect the CSeries, if launched, will set in motion forces beyond anyone’s understanding today. We will look back at 2008 as a genuinely crucial year in the industry’s history.

(Phew, heavy stuff for this time of the morning.)

, ,

Leave a Reply