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Bombardier chief calls out industry criticism of CSeries

Linking the CSeries to the invention of the 50-seat regional jet, chief executive Alain Bellemare told an audience of high-ranking executives that Bombardier’s high-stakes bet on the 100-150-seat jet market will be vindicated, even as called on his industry rivals to refrain from criticizing innovative projects.

“I am confident when the story of the CSeries is written our past issues will be largely forgotten. People will recognise it as a big, bold move, and as a game-changing aircraft,” said Bellemare, speaking on 19 May at the Wing’s Club before an audience that included the top executives of competitors such as Gulfstream and Dassault, as well as key suppliers, such as Pratt & Whitney.

Last October, the Wing’s Club hosted a black-tie banquet to honour Airbus chief operating officer-customers John Leahy, a fierce competitor of the CSeries and also a public critic. In early 2016, Leahy predicted that the CSeries would become an “orphan” aircraft, meaning that a handful of early customers would be left stranded with a product rejected by the rest of the market.

Less than three months later, Bombardier had added commitments from three airlines to order 127 aircraft, including what Bellemare calls a pivotal deal with Delta Air Lines for 75 CS100s. The deal prompted some analysts with critical opinions of the CSeries to revise their market forecasts to acknowledge a potentially lengthy production run.

Bellemare did not identify any particular critics by name, but called upon the entire industry to show less hostility to innovative new products, such as the CSeries.

“I believe we can do much better in terms in terms of supporting companies while we are taking the risk necessary to drive innovation,” Bellemare says. “It is the great paradox of our industry. We all recognize that innovation does not come without risk. We all know that our industry will never advance beyond its current state if we don’t take risk. And of course when we do take risks setbacks do happen to us and everyone in the industry. And yet these setbacks are rarely characterised as evidence of a company pushing the envelope to provide maximum value.”

He cited the example of the CRJ-series of regional jets, which Bombardier launched in the late-1980s. The company has sold more than 1,800 CRJ aircraft, ranging in size from 50-seats to more than 100-seats.

“The cynicism of the CRJ was widespread when we launched the programme,” Bellemare says. “In the end, the CRJ became a huge success, and allowed airlines to better serve customers. As an industry we should be more vocal in applauding companies that are willing to take risk to push the industry forward.”

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