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Airbus revisits CSeries as programme risk diminishes

Airbus's timing of its revisit to the Bombardier CSeries, two years after dropping out of partnership talks, removes much of the risk it previously associated with the programme.

It had held discussions on a tie-up with Bombardier when the Canadian airframer underwent a strategic review in 2015 – despite publicly deriding the CSeries' capability to rival its A320 line – but opted against pursuing a partnership.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, speaking during a 17 October briefing, said the "context has changed a lot" over the subsequent two years, particularly as a result of CS100 and CS300 certification.

"We're talking fully-certified aircraft," he says. "The programme focus is now on execution."

Enders adds that Airbus, at the time of previous discussions, had also been facing its own heavy internal workload with the ramp-up of the A350 programme and development of the A320neo.

While Airbus was a "bit shy" as a result, the A350 ramp-up is progressing and the airframer is also "getting out of the doldrums" on the A320neo, says Enders, following a prolonged effort to resolve powerplant issues.

With the CSeries having entered service the programme is "significantly de-risked" compared with its position two or three years ago, he states.

Airbus chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm says that most of the development spending is "behind", which removes a "large proportion" of the financial risk.

"[We have] now a unique opportunity to drive the CSeries programme forward," he adds.

Although sales have been better than those for Airbus's A319neo – which had been pitched as a competitor – the CSeries had been struggling to secure a convincing base of strong customers at the time of Airbus's interest.

But the situation has since improved, with last year's large orders from Delta Air Lines and Air Canada underpinning the programme.

Enders believes CSeries sales efforts will benefit from the European airframer's involvement, adding: "The [aircraft] needs someone like Airbus to spread its wings around the globe."

Airbus is aiming to secure regulatory approval and close the partnership agreement on the CSeries "as soon as possible", says Enders, estimating that this will occur in the second half of 2018.

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