Bombardier chief executive Pierre Beaudoin says the CSeries completing the first flight milestone could spur orders from some customers who are still undecided about buying the small narrowbody aircraft.
“I think there’s definitely airlines that are on the fence that will see this as a confirmation the programme’s moving forward,” Beaudoin says.
The first flight test vehicle took off at 09:55 at Mirabel airport near Montreal on 16 September. The event was delayed by eight months due to suppliers and required software upgrades.
Some customers want to see the CSeries fly before signing a check to buy the aircraft, Beaudoin says, who alluded to the multi-year delays suffered by the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 programmes.
“In the end we get compared to other companies with airplanes and first flights have not always been in the year they were scheduled,” he says. “Airlines, first, they have pressure from their own boards if you like. So first flight is a big milestone.”
At the same time, Beaudoin is careful to point out that the CSeries backlog with 177 firm orders is on track with the company’s internal expectations. But the CSeries is in line to compete for several major and critical orders evolving within the next three months.
Air Canada, for example, has released a request for proposals to buy up to 100 aircraft by the end of the year and the CSeries is one of the aircraft under review.
“I think we’ll be very well positioned to compete for that order,” Beaudoin says. Bombardier is courting airlines all over the world to buy the CSeries. For example, Steve Aliment, Bombardier’s vice president of sales for Europe, tweeted a photo on the morning of the CSeries first flight showing the cover of the company’s sales proposal to Alitalia.
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker, meanwhile, has considered signing a major order for the CSeries for several years. In June, Al Baker told Flightglobal that he was waiting for the CSeries to complete first flight and compile months of test data before making his decision. Beaudoin acknowledges that some airlines want to wait until at least the second test vehicle achieves first flight.
“Some will want two airplanes in the air to confirm the data from that first airplane,” Beaudoin says. “Flight test airplanes vary. Sometimes, they don’t have parts that are completely production parts that tend to be heavier.”
Bombardier has previously said that the second test aircraft will follow first flight of the first aircraft by about one month, but Beaudoin declined to clarify the first flight date. Check out all our exclusive material on the CSeries for free, here in the FG Club