Bombardier expects notable CSeries order book gains by mid-2014 as additional test flights demonstrate the performance and efficiency gains of the next-generation airliner, according to CSeries programme management director Sebastien Mullot.
Speaking during the Scotiabank Transportation & Aerospace Conference, Mullot insists the CSeries programme is on track to hit the company’s target of 300 orders from 20 customers by the aircraft's entry into service, which may be the latter half of next year.
The company has firm orders for 177 CSeries aircraft, according to the Ascend Online database.
Mullot says orders are “tracking well,” adding that the Montreal-based OEM also expects to reduce discounts given to customers as the test flight programme continues.
“We have a cash-operating cost advantage. We have a timing advantage and we will see our risk profile going down,” Mullot says when asked about CSeries' competitive position. “Combine all that, and that should help us on the pricing front.”
“From now on, you should see...the pricing trend going up,” he adds.
Bombardier flew the first CSeries test aircraft on 16 September and recently completed the seventh test flight. The company has said it expects the aircraft to be certificated roughly one year after its first flight.
Mullot predicts more customers will “come in the first half of 2014, once we are able to convey to them some of the performance details.”
The potential efficiency of the aircraft has not yet been verified because test flights have been conducted at lower-than-cruise altitudes and with the aircraft in sub-optimal configurations, he adds.
Bombardier is currently “paying the cost” of performance uncertainties in the form of discounts given to initial customers like Republic and Lufthansa, according to Mullot.
Although additional customers may place orders now that flight testing has commenced, some airlines, mindful of unforeseen problems with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, may not place orders until CSeries has been in service for a few years, he says.
Still, a variety of factors he says work in Bombardier’s favor, Mullot notes.
First, discounts will likely shrink as the flight test programme continues, assuming the aircraft meet performance and test-flight schedule expectations.
Also, competitors Airbus and Boeing have recently received a host of orders for A320s and 737s, meaning they will have limited production slots through 2020, Mullot says.
“We will have slots that are available for an aircraft that will have at least a double-digit cash-operating cost advantage,” he says.