By Murdo Morrison in Montreal

Canadian airframer Bombardier will decide by the end of the year either to restore its CSeries mainline airliner programme or direct resources to developing a uprated version of the CRJ900 regional jet.

Bombardier is considering a new stretch version of the CRJ900, known as the CRJ900X, for the 90- to 100-seat market. It would feature a larger wing, uprated engines and bigger cabin windows.

Under the plan, which was revealed on Friday by Bombardier Regional Aircraft vice president of markets and airline analysis Barry MacKinnon, the baseline CRJ900’s wing trailing edge will be increased by 7.5%, while the thrust of General Electric’s CF34-8C5 engines will be increased by 2% to 5% from the current 14,255lb-thrust (63.4kN) automatic power reserve.

The manufacturer is also looking at replacing the CRJ900’s steel brakes with carbon brakes to save weight and strengthening the landing gear. Bombardier will not change the aircraft’s fuselage cross section.

The changes could deliver an 8% to 10% improvement in seat kilometre costs over the CRJ900, says MacKinnon.

Bombardier says the CRJ900X "study programme" is now in a “customer consultation period”. MacKinnon hopes the manufacturer’s board will take a decision this year to advance the study.

However, according to a senior source in the company, the board is unlikely to sanction investment to take both the CRJ900X and the stalled CSeries project forward simultaneously. “They are going to have to decide,” says the source.

The official Bombardier line reflects a different picture. During a media briefing last week at the Canadian manufacturer’s Mirabel facility in Montreal, Bombardier Aerospace vice president of strategy and business development Michael McAdoo says the two projects are “not mutually exclusive”.

“They are different types of decisions. [The CRJ900X] doesn’t take us into a fundamentally different business space...but you have to ask yourself if in terms of resources we’d want to do both,” he notes, adding: “The two decisions will be taken separately and together. We don’t have unlimited technical and financial resources.

“In case people forget, we also have a train business to take care of.”

It would be “a mistake to put a deadline” on any board decision, continues McAdoo. “There are so many variables that can change rapidly.”

Speaking today on the last day of the three-day media summit, Bombardier director of marketing and programme management for new commercial aircraft Ben Boehm said the truncated CSeries team is continuing to explore further technical developments, talk to airlines and engage in “in-depth follow-on discussions with potential partners”.

Current technical work includes Eighth Series wind tunnel testing and fly-by-wire control law optimisation. The company is also “continuing to work on advanced composites” and “better integration of systems”, as well as developing “new materials in the interior”.

After completing a world tour at Asian Aerospace air show in Singapore in February, Bombardier is setting up its CSeries mock-up at Mirabel.

Source: Flight International