Propulsion deal eludes Bombardier despite state backing

Bombardier's planned CSeries airliner project has won multi-million-dollar development loans from the Canadian and UK governments, but almost simultaneously has been rejected by both prospective engine suppliers, CFM International and International Aero Engines.

The government funding commitments, announced through letters of intent on 13 May, include a C$400 million ($320 million) research and development loan from Canada and a C$100 million commitment from the UK. A further C$350 million is being contributed by the Quebec government as part of a $700 million government commitment that Bombardier says is essential for the CSeries programme to proceed.

Bombardier is investing $700 million of its own money in the programme, and is seeking $700 million from risk-sharing partners. The deal calls for cockpit and final CSeries assembly in Mirabel, Montreal, and wing manufacturing by Bombardier's Shorts site in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The good news on funding contrasts sharply with confirmation from CFMI that it has dropped out of the CSeries studies, and the even more surprising revelation that IAE is following suit. IAE officially says "we are still in talks with them", but sources familiar with the programme say an internal decision was taken at IAE in early May to withdraw from the project. CFMI says: "We have concluded that our long-term product strategies are not complementary and have elected not to pursue an agreement with Bombardier at this time. CFMI will, of course, leave the door open for future discussions on potential programmes."

CFMI's decision is said to have been made for several reasons, including the programme's poor timing from a next-generation CFM56 technology perspective, and uncertain market predictions. IAE, which first offered a new centreline engine in the 21,000-23,000lb (93-102kN) thrust category, is thought to have pulled out after Bombardier failed to satisfy its market concerns.

IAE, comprising the Japanese Aero Engine Corp, MTU, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, is understood to have requested a detailed market analysis from Bombardier by 30 April. Apparently this was not delivered, and the decision to withdraw was made soon afterwards, say sources. The engine-makers' decision could be crucial to the direction of the programme, which has always depended on new powerplant technology to deliver operating costs 15% lower than current 100-seaters.

Bombardier commercial aircraft programmes manager Gary Scott says it had "been looking at a new engine, an engine that they don't make currently".



Source: Flight International