Porter CS100 order requires key approvals to move forward

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Porter Airlines' order for up to 30 Bombardier CS100 aircraft is welcome news for Bombardier, which has gained another customer that has chosen the aircraft type for flying at urban airports with strict noise and emissions regulations.

Porter Airlines announced this week that it was the unidentified Americas customer that signed a letter of intent for 12 of the CS100 jets, with options for an additional 18. The aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2016. When combined with options for purchase rights on six Bombardier Q400s, the deal could be valued at up to $2.29 billion. Porter confirms it was the unidentified Americas customer that signed a letter of intent for the jets late last year.

Although the airline clearly wants to use the CS100's range of 2,950NM as a foundation for growth into destinations such as Los Angeles and the Caribbean, the order is conditional upon Porter gaining key approvals before it can fly it out of Billy Bishop Toronto City airport.

If Porter can secure the approvals, the orders would be added to Bombardier's CSeries order book, which stood at 148 firm orders for the CS100 and CS300 types at the end of 2012. Overall, the airframer has 382 commitments for the CSeries overall. But beyond the numbers, a firm order from Porter would solidify that the CSeries can bring an aircraft with more than 100 seats into urban airport markets that have been virtually untouched by larger narrowbody aircraft.

Porter must work with the Canadian government, the city of Toronto and the Toronto Port Authority to permit the aircraft type to fly in and out of its hub at Billy Bishop, which does not permit commercial jets now. The carrier is planning to initiate conversations with these Canadian stakeholders in coming weeks, and is hoping for a deal in the next six months, said chief executive Robert Deluce at an event in Toronto this week.

The approvals would "open up two-way traffic that will benefit everyone," he said.

In addition to convincing these authorities that the CSeries is quiet enough and environmentally suitable, Porter is also requesting that a 168m extension into the water at each end of the main runway be made to accommodate the CS100. The aircraft needs at least 4,000ft (1,219m) to take off and 4,400ft2 to land according to baseline numbers from the manufacturer. Deluce said the extension is a "pretty modest extension" and "not an enormous item" that would have to be addressed.

Lufthansa's Swiss subsidiary intends to fly the CSeries at London City Airport, but the airport also must obtain approvals for modifications and undergo rework to accommodate the aircraft. The carrier has made a firm order for 30 CS100s and the airport is proposing plans to build new aircraft stands capable of supporting an aircraft the size of the CS100. London City is not planning to extend its existing runway to do this.

While the order from Porter is promising for Bombardier, the CSeries programme continues to face critical milestones. Another big-name airline like Lufthansa has yet to come forward with a firm order for the CSeries, and the aircraft still must complete critical tests before it can be delivered, especially for the fly-by-wire system.

"The fly by wire testing is advancing, and thus far we're pleased with the results," said Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. The first flight of the CSeries flight test vehicle is scheduled to be completed by the end of June, with delivery of the first aircraft scheduled for mid-2014.