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Bombardier keeps CSeries on the boil

Geared turbofan emerges as potential engine candidate

Bombardier's hot and cold foray into the mainline airliner market has warmed up again, and Pratt & Whitney's geared turbofan (GTF) has emerged as a potential powerplant for the proposed 110- to 130-seater. However, any launch decision is still at least a few months away.

Pierre Beaudoin, Bombardier Aerospace president and chief operating officer, says that a team of 50 developers - costing $20 million a year - continues to hone the design for the twinjet for an anticipated 2013 entry into service, but key risk-sharing partners, suppliers and a launch airline have not yet been signed. More details are expected during Bombardier's annual earnings conference on 28 March.

Since deferring plans to launch the CSeries a year ago, Bombardier scaled back rather than abandoned the effort, as potential customers were willing to accept a later entry into service in lieu of more operational cost savings, says Beaudoin. The engineering team have now baselined the aircraft around an "all-new" engine and increased the use of composites. "We have demonstrated the technologies in a windtunnel and I think we're there on the 15% reduction," he says.

To achieve the performance boost, Bombardier has more than doubled the proportion of composites to metal in the aircraft, from 20% to 45%, with an all-composite wing and empennage. The earlier design featured an aluminium wing with composite high-lift devices. Further, Beaudoin says the design team has eliminated another 1,130kg (2,500lb) of aircraft weight by making the wing "a little bit shorter" and sacrificing "a little" on range.

Bombardier is in talks with all major engine manufacturers, although Beaudoin says the "focus" has been with Pratt & Whitney as "they've been with us since the beginning", and the engine maker says that a variant of the GTF could be developed that would be suitable for the CSeries.

Bombardier has spent $120 million on the CSeries, a small portion of the $2 billion-plus development costs. The Canadian, Quebec and UK governments are committed to pay about a third of the developments costs, although Bombardier says the agreements will have to be revisited if the business plans change significantly.

Meanwhile, Beaudoin says that the proposed CRJ900X stretch will be launched once supplier "discussions" are resolved, and the prospects for the larger Dash Q400X are under evaluation.




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