Bombardier's CSeries programme could suffer a blow to its image if the manufacturer does not secure a firm order for the airliner soon, warns a senior aerospace analyst for Forecast International.
Raymond Jaworowski says current turmoil in the world's financial markets and its knock-on effects to the airline industry gives Bombardier "a little bit more time from a public relations point of view" to lock down CSeries orders.
Uncertainty in the economy, he notes, means "it is a little bit more difficult" for aircraft manufacturers to secure firm orders and this provides Bombardier with some "cushion".
However, Jaworowski adds: "I think they could probably go into next year without a firm order, but not much more than early [next] year."
Bombardier in July formally launched the CSeries with a letter of interest for 30 aircraft from Lufthansa. The Canadian airframer has said it is confident it will sign firm orders for the 110/130-seat family this year, including from Lufthansa. Bombardier's fiscal year ends on 31 January 2009.
"The timing of the CSeries is very important," says Jaworowski, noting that if Bombardier meets the 2013 service-entry target "or even if it's pushed to 2014", the company will "get in a few years ahead" of the narrowbody successors that are expected to come from Airbus and Boeing.
"With the ambitious CSeries project, Bombardier is doing more than playing catch-up to Embraer in the 100-plus seat regional jet market. The CSeries will also directly challenge Airbus and Boeing in the narrowbody airliner market," says Jaworowski.
Should the CSeries programme experience any serious delays, however, Bombardier would enjoy less of a timing advantage, he says.
Connecticut-based Forecast International in a newly released study called "The Market for Regional Transport Aircraft" predicts that the top three regional aircraft manufacturers - ATR, Bombardier and Embraer - will produce 3,100 aircraft between them through to the end of 2017.
The report projects that Embraer will be market leader with 1,440 regional jets worth $47.1 billion, followed by Bombardier with 1,189 turboprops/regional jets worth $41.5 billion. ATR is forecast to build 458 turboprops valued at $8.3 billion.