Over the eight-year saga of Bombardier’s star-cross’d CSeries programme, few moments seemed more monumental than Air Canada’s new commitment to buy up to 75 CS300s, announced on 17 February.
Could this letter of intent by the Canadian flag carrier be the proverbial “turning point” in the CSeries story? Can we expect Bombardier’s fortunes to finally reverse, with a flood of new orders and flawless service entries later this year for both the CS100 and CS300?
As significant as Air Canada’s commitment appears, CSeries success is still far from assured. Any fresh intention to buy is welcome news in Quebec – the province is investing $1 billion this year in a new joint venture with Bombardier to manage the programme. Serious interest from an airline which only two years ago rejected the type offers a badly needed endorsement from a respected network carrier.
But Air Canada’s announcement adds nothing in the near term to Bombardier’s firm order backlog, fixed at a disappointing 243 for the last year and a half. Deliveries are not expected to begin until 2019, so Air Canada has no need to firm up a deal until the year before.
By then, the fate of the CSeries should be clear. New commitments now are helpful, but its future depends on what happens over the next 18 months. A reliable entry into service and a smooth production ramp-up through 2017 are absolutely critical.