Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone

When will we start seeing orders come in from more low-cost carriers beyond Air Baltic for the high-density seating CS300 variant of the CSeries?

I can't give you an exact date, but all I can tell you is we're having a lot of discussions. There are a lot of negotiations going on and they'll be announced as our customers feel comfortable and we have an agreement, such as the deal that we have done firm with our Russian partner. I would keep an eye on how Ilyushin Finance goes after customers. I think that you'll see that there's quite a lot of progress made not only from the deal becoming firm now, which is a landmark deal for us. But you'll start to see more customers as we get closer to the entry into service, such as Gulf Air deciding now it was time for their announcement... because they are our launch customer in the Middle East.

When will we find out who will be the first operator for the CSeries?

Well, as soon as that customer feels comfortable, we will make that joint announcement. You've got to keep in mind that for this customer the real reason that they do not want to be known yet is because they feel they have a very competitive product and advantage over their competition. They want to keep it close to the chest, if I may use that expression, before they make the formal announcement so that they are confident enough that there's no other competitor that can have the aircraft within the same timeframe, and it gives them enough time to really fine-tune their business plan, their routes, their marketing analysis as to where they want to put this aircraft.

You've closed out static testing on the complete airframe for the CSeries. When do you reach that point on the fly-by-wire safety of flight testing in the integrated systems test and component rig (ISTCR)?

Well, that's well on its way, because those tests in ISTCR are complete. The aircraft now is fuelled, ready for our pilots and they will make the decision and go through the documentation. They will go through their own testing of aircraft readiness. Once that's complete, then we will have the authority of Transport Canada... to go ahead with their first flight.

Does that means you've completed safety of flight testing on the software?

The tests have gone very well so far on all the CSeries aircraft systems. They've met our expectations, and as I said we're getting ready for the safety of flight tests to support our first flight, which is by the end of June.

On the regional jet side, we've seen five big orders for regional jets by US carriers since October, with Embraer winning three, Mitsubishi taking one and Bombardier taking one. How do you interpret those results so far, in terms of how you see the CRJ competing in the US re-fleeting process?

Obviously we are competing in both North American and European scope clause because they are being looked at by those airline carriers very quietly but closely. For us, you said three [for Embraer], one [for Mitsubishi], but I've got to tell you, we're not worried about some of our competitors where there is no aircraft. We have a proven base. We won the Delta firm [order] against one of our competitors. They've chosen a strategy where they want to make a couple more announcements. But we're not done yet. There are still some airlines that are going through their scopes right now and you just have to stay tuned and see what happens with the other airlines. But we're very comfortable and confident. The sales teams are very active. We have a great product and there's no other regional jet that provides the commonality benefits that the CRJ family aircraft has. So we have to anticipate really that this will be a key consideration in the number of airline business plans.

Do you think it's feasible for Bombardier to look for a parity with Embraer in the refleeting process for the North American carriers, or do you think you could go even higher than that?

Depending on the customers. I can't tell you if it's going to be parity or not. We're trying to satisfy the customer as we meet their business plan requirements. And, some, you go ahead of time and some you go later. But I can tell you we are in very active campaigns. I cannot discuss these campaigns [in terms of] who they are and what number of aircraft, but I can tell you that I've been personally involved so I can tell you with confidence if you just stay tuned we'll see what the announcements will bring out in terms of who gets what in North America.

A few months ago, Bombardier spoke of a new initiative to develop a lower-cost version of the Q400. What specifically can you do to lower the price of the aircraft and how low can you make it?

I'm not going to get into the price point discussion but all I can tell you is it's also the way we want to market the aircraft. The Q400 provides jet-like speed. If someone wants to fly it at a lower speed they can do that. So it's really how we market the aircraft. We can reconfigure a low-entry Q400. Some of our customers require dual-class in a Q400, so we can't sell all dual-class, but certainly can sell what we have done with the WestJet, where we provided a single class. Over two years ago, we brought in a new drop-down oxygen system to further extend the capabilities of the aircraft. If a customer does not need the drop-down oxygen system, for example, we can take that out, and you take that cost out.

When do you think we will see a CSeries flying at an air show, if not, say, in November in, for example, Dubai?

Our flight test programme as you know will start by the end of the month. The whole flight test programme is about a year before our entry into service. If you look at a year from June, you know, we're not going to be at the Dubai air show with the CSeries. But probably I would say it would be safe to target next year at Farnborough. Perhaps, we'll have our first customer and we could actually demonstrate the aircraft for one of our customers.

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Source: Flight Daily News