Bombardier gets breathing room on CSeries

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Pressure on Bombardier to announce a firm order for the CSeries jetliner by the end of its fiscal year appears to be subsiding, as the industry focuses its attention on weathering the current global financial crisis.

"I think it's understandable to many observers, including ourselves, that a firm order has yet to firmed up in light of what's going on in the marketplace," says Raymond Jaworowski, a senior aerospace analyst for Forecast International.

"I think people are willing to give Bombardier some leeway in terms of timing as to when they are able to get that initial firm order. If times were good in the airline market, we would have a very different situation."

Bombardier last year launched the geared turbofan (GTF)-powered CSeries family in Farnborough with a letter of interest (LOI) from Lufthansa for 30 firm and 30 optioned aircraft. A second potential customer emerged this month when Mongolian carrier Eznis said it signed a LOI for seven CSeries twinjets.

If either of these is firmed up, or a separate deal is announced by 31 January, the Canadian airframer will have fulfilled its own prediction that firm orders for the 110/130-seat aircraft would be inked within its fiscal year.

Lufthansa has declined to confirm a date for firming its order. However, the German operator insists it is committed to the LOI. "There is absolutely no change of plan. We still think the CSeries is a great airplane," says Lufthansa VP, the Americas Jens Bischof.

He notes that the carrier is "in detailed" negotiations with Bombardier.

Bombardier concurs saying: "We're both working hard to achieve this goal."

The CSeries is expected to enter service in 2013. Jaworowski believes Bombardier would be safe in pushing out the entry date "a year or two", but warns a lengthy delay will place the firm in a precarious position as the CSeries would come to market around the same time Airbus and Boeing launch replacement aircraft for their A320 and 737 narrowbodies, respectively.

"The further Bombardier pushes out service entry, the less advantage in terms of schedule they'll have because that will be some of the CSeries' main competitors, the new narrowbodies, coming down the pike," says the analyst.