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Bombardier CEO assesses possible CSeries schedule change

Five weeks after becoming Bombardier’s new chief executive, Alain Bellemare says he is assessing potential changes to the scheduled certification date of the CSeries aircraft family.

“We might have a little bit of schedule impact in terms of certification that I’m trying to assess right now,” Bellemare says in an interview on the sidelines of the US Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit in Washington DC on 17 March, where he spoke on a panel of manufacturing executives.

Bombardier currently plans to certificate and deliver the first 110-seat CS100 in the second half of this year, Bellemare says, but adds that a delay anywhere in the supply chain could impact the overall schedule.

The CSeries flight test programme, meanwhile, now includes four CS100 aircraft and the first CS300. The fifth CS100 has received a flight test permit and is expected to join the flight test programme any day.

Bombardier announced on 9 March that the programme had passed the half-way point of the testing schedule. So far, the test results show that the aircraft is meeting the company’s fuel-saving promises, Bellemare says.

It has also received a recent lift by gaining a commitment on 17 March from Malaysian start-up carrier Flymojo to buy up to 40 CS100s. That letter of intent was signed only days after another potential customer, Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines, passed on a chance to buy the CSeries.

As part of Bellemare’s review of the programme, Bombardier will consider filling possible leadership “gaps” in the sales and marketing team for the CSeries, he says.

“The CSeries has created a shadow over the performance of the entire Bombardier business,” Bellemare says. “Once we get that on a better track I think we’re going to start seeing the sun. Right now, it’s pretty cloudy.”

As a former Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand executive, Bellemare is concerned by the market perception of Bombardier’s business value.

“It’s a $20 billion business today with a market [capitalisation] of four-and-a-half [billion]” Bellemare says. “Something doesn’t compute there.”

Bombardier announced in February that it was seeking ways to participate in industrial consolidation. That policy remains an option for both the company’s train manufacturing business and the commercial aviation business, Bellemare says.

Much of the company’s business jet portfolio remains attractive, he adds, with one possible exception.

“I know Challenger is strong, I know Global is strong,” he says. “Learjet? I need to spend some time thinking about it.”

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