As Bombardier reshuffles its leadership and seeks to contain a financial crisis, it is time to consider how things could have gone so wrong for the Canadian manufacturer.
Bombardier cancelled its BRJ-X project almost 14 years ago. That was an Embraer E-Jet-sized aircraft with engines mounted below the wings, which is an ideal configuration for stretching. Instead, it launched further stretches of the CRJ-700, in the -900 and-1000.
Had it kept the BRJ going, the company would have had the option of launching an E2-style rewinging and re-enginging activity, rather than encroach on Airbus’s and Boeing’s turf with the larger CSeries.
In 2008, it was also widely believed that Airbus and Boeing would launch clean-sheet aircraft to replace their A320 and 737. Ironically, Bombardier may have inadvertently set in motion the demise of such designs by launching the CSeries with Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engine. That helped convince Airbus in 2010 to re-engine the A320 with the same technology, triggering a re-engined response from Boeing.
Retrospective vision is always perfect, but it should have been clear even in 2008 that the opportunity cost posed by the CSeries was too high for Bombardier.
Since the early 1990s, Bombardier’s aerospace division had prided itself on maintaining a balanced portfolio in three major segments. But keeping that broad portfolio competitive and intact proved impossible after the CSeries started absorbing the majority of the aerospace division’s research and development budget. Had Bombardier not launched the CSeries, the CRJ would likely still be winding down as Embraer’s E-Jet E2 family came into service. However, it would have been able to launch a 90-seater to follow the Q400.
Learjet also would have struggled with the extended sales depression in the light jet segment, but its owner would have had the capital to invest sooner in a response to the G650. Instead, Gulfstream will have the market to itself for at least five years until the Global 7000 enters service.
Boeing arguably made more expensive mistakes on the 787, but it could afford to with ample cash flowing in from the 737 and 777 programmes. Bombarder’s products are not lucrative enough to offset climbing CSeries development costs. The 787 also enjoys being in a popular segment of the market, with more than 1,000 aircraft already sold.
The CSeries was simply a mistake that Bombardier could not afford to make.
Source: Flight International