Bombardier aims to finalise an engine selection for its planned CSeries airliner by the end of the year to enable it to be ready to decide on a programme launch by mid-2008. This dovetails with the needs of the twinjet's leading launch customer prospect Northwest Airlines, which plans to reach a decision on a new 100-seater before year-end.

Northwest, which recently emerged from Chapter 11, has a need for around 60 new 100-seaters to replace its remaining McDonnell Douglas DC-9s by 2013, says its vice-president finance and fleet planning Dan McDonald. "We're evaluating the CSeries and the Embraer E-Jet and have started to look at the Sukhoi Superjet 100," he says. "We want to be in a position by the year-end to have a strategic plan for a new 100-seater."

Central to the success of the CSeries is the development of new "advanced technology engines with a maximum thrust of 23,000lb [102kN] optimised for the CSeries", says Bombardier. Gary Scott, president of the airframer's aircraft services and new commercial aircraft programme divisions, says that talks are progressing with "all three" engine manufacturers that are showing "keen interest". He says: "We need to decide by the end of year which engine or engines will power the aircraft."

Scott says that many of the other key CSeries systems suppliers had been selected before the programme's postponement last year, so it is "not starting with a clean sheet of paper" as it looks to revive those tie-ups. "We'll have selected our main suppliers and moved to a joint concept definition phase by the end of the year, then we'll begin the joint definition about launch time, which is planned for mid-2008."

Northwest is one of around 20 airlines participating in advisory teams that focus on various specific areas of the aircraft's design and provide input into the twinjet's development. To launch the aircraft, Bombardier is looking for "quality and quantity" in terms of orders - "a couple of [high-profile] airlines and 50-100 aircraft", says Scott. McDonald adds that Northwest would not want to be the only customer at launch.

Although composites will make up 46% of the CSeries, the aircraft as currently defined retains an aluminium lithium fuselage. However, Northwest - a Boeing 787 launch customer - believes that carbonfibre fuselages are the future and Scott says Bombardier continues to run trade-off studies of metal versus composites as it finalises the specification.

The CSeries family comprises two models, the baseline C110 and the C130 stretch. Scott say that a third - a 95-seat shrink - could be developed, but this is not in the current plan.

Source: Flight International