In part two of our world airliners round-up, mainline jets come in for sector-by-sector analysis. Major decisions loom in the narrowbody market, with Airbus and Boeing under pressure to replace popular products, while Bombardier's CSeries progresses and China and Russia aim to disrupt the duopoly. New widebody programmes have made major advances this year while older types have faded and ultra-large types remained problematic. Elsewhere, Russian manufacturers are struggling to keep lines open amid weak demand, but conversion providers are finding reasons for optimism.
BOMBARDIER PREDICTS CSERIES 'ERA'
By Mary Kirby
In the weeks leading up to the Farnborough air show in July, Bombardier rode a wave of positive publicity about its CSeries jetliner as a number of analysts predicted the Canadian airframer would announce one or more deals for the 110- to 130-seat aircraft.
When no firm orders materialised, Bombardier put on a brave face and declared it anticipated "great interest in the CSeries over the long haul".
Recent comments from airlines show that Bombardier may have reason to be so confident. American Airlines' chief executive Gerard Arpey has deemed the CSeries to be "definitely worth considering" as the carrier looks to scale capacity to match growth forecasted for the rest of this decade.
Middle Eastern carrier Gulf Air has admitted it is focusing on three candidates for a permanent regional jet operation, and will choose between the CSeries, the Embraer E-Jets family and the Airbus A318.
Even Qatar Airways - long considered a likely candidate for the CSeries - appears to be back on track in negotiations with Bombardier after expressing concerns at the air show about engine maintenance costs associated with the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1500G geared turbofan engines that will power the CSeries twinjet.
To date, Bombardier has secured 90 firm orders and 90 options for the CSeries. But the airframer expects airlines to purchase nearly 7,000 aircraft in the 100- to 149-seat segment of the market - squarely in CSeries territory - during the next 20 years.
"I am very confident that we will fill very quickly the pipeline that we have on the CSeries in terms of all of the interactions we're having with customers all over the world. Doors are being opened. Welcome mats are being laid out. Potential customers are all extremely intrigued. They are doing detailed studies and not just giving it a cursory once-over look. They are calling us back. They are diving deep," says Bombardier vice-president commercial aircraft programmes Ben Boehm.
"As the economy continues to rebound and as airlines continue to feel the pressure of emissions trading schemes in Europe and as they go more into growth mode and stabilise their balance books, I'm very confident this will be the era of the CSeries for the next 10 to 20 years."
He stresses that the CSeries will not compete with potential successors to Airbus and Boeing's narrowbodies. "What Boeing and Airbus are talking about really is not affecting us. They are talking about 150-seats plus and that is not the CSeries market segment."
Boehm reports that "everything" is on schedule. "We're happy to constantly tell the world that the plane continues to be more and more real. The [CSeries] engine is now on the test stand in Florida. The first version of fly-by-wire control laws are already being tested by our suppliers, so [we're seeing] all the standard progress for a programme in the detailed design phase."
In another recent achievement, Bombardier mated a portion of the CSeries composite wing to the airliner's composite wingbox and conducted successful tests to mitigate any perceived risk associated with such a join.
"There have been problems in the industry, with a lot of people [wondering] about these joins. We wanted to say: 'This is not an issue. Bombardier has mastered this'," says Boehm.
Flight testing of the first CSeries, the smaller CS100, is due in 2012, with service entry in 2013. Bombardier envisages a two-day production rate, but Boehm says this can be increased.
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