FARNBOROUGH 2008: Airbus criticises Bombardier's CSeries for launching without firm order

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Airbus is unconvinced by Bombardier’s claim that it can deliver its recently-launched CSeries family of airliners for the development cost of $3 billion.

In up-beat mood after a near-record week of order announcements, a top team from Airbus yesterday mulled over a range of issues, from another likely VIP customer for the A380 to a predicted shake-out in the small airliner market.

“I think it’s very high-risk to launch a programme without a firm launch order,” says Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice president, programmes, speaking about the CSeries.

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He added that he was surprised at the stated investment cost and believed that the risk-sharing partners in the venture would be “asked for more money”.

He says: “If they could get it done for $3 billion, it would be exceptional. I think they (Bombardier) face a very big challenge. There will be a niche market for the aircraft but I don’t think the size of the market they are talking about is there.”

Williams said Bombardier was entering the small aircraft end of the market dominated by Airbus and Boeing and they could expect “an aggressive response”.

John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer, customers, adds: “There are now about four or five players in the small end and I think there will be a shake-out in that area.”

Leahy revealed Airbus is negotiating a possible second sale of a VIP A380. It is one of the four test aircraft no longer being taken by Etihad Airways. Etihad, however, announced at Farnborough that it has increased its order, taking 10 new-build aircraft instead.

Airbus, Leahy said, had enjoyed its second best Farnborough tally of orders, announcing 247 new deals and nine commitments worth a total of $40.5 billion.

However, he warned that the civil airliner market was likely to “soften” during the rest of this year.

To date this year, Airbus has taken 730 (net) new orders and was predicting around 850 over the whole year.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders says: “This Farnborough for us is certainly positive and pretty amazing against the overall background of the aviation industry.”


* Yesterday, Airbus also announced the firming up of a $2.4 billion order (at catalogue prices) for ten A350-800s from Synergy Aerospace, main shareholder of Avianca and SAM in Colombia, Oceanair in Brazil and VIP in Ecuador.

The contract firms up the Memorandum of Understanding signed in February 2008. Airbus also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alis Aerolinee Italiane, an Italian start-up company, for the acquisition of five A330-200F freighter aircraft, plus three options.

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