A Farnborough air show outburst by Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker about Pratt & Whitney's intransigence on engine maintenance costs for the Bombardier CSeries has sparked progress in talks that could lead to a substantial surge in the narrowbody airliner's orderbook.

The airline has been in long-running on/off negotiations to become a launch customer for Bombardier's P&W PW1500G geared turbofan powered twinjet, but progress is being made over a key stumbling block, the engine's maintenance cost guarantees.

Qatar Airways had been the subject of much pre-Farnborough speculation about a potential show order - but this was stamped out on day one when Al Baker went public about the fact that concerns over P&W's maintenance cost guarantees were seriously hampering negotiations.

"If the airframe delivers everything we want but the maintenance costs on the engine will be higher than what we want to pay, then we have an issue," said Al Baker in July. "So until we tie up the whole package as one deal, Qatar does not order the aircraft."

Although Bombardier's vice-president for commercial aircraft programmes Ben Boehm says he does not "see these as things you should be negotiating in the public realm", it appears that Al Baker's outburst has had the desired effect.

Boehm is "still very confident that Qatar, Pratt and ourselves are going to come to an amicable agreement". According to industry sources, negotiations between the three are continuing, with P&W now addressing the airline's specific concerns about the engine's costs. "Bombardier is in no way concerned about whether or not there is a maintenance cost issue on the engine," says Boehm.

P&W's GTF brochure claims 20% maintenance cost savings over current engines, due to its cooler-running hot section, which has fewer parts - a saving Qatar Airways wants reflected in any contracted guarantees if it places an order.

Boehm says the CSeries programme remains on track for its order forecast with 90 firm orders and 90 options for the 110- to 149-seat jetliner, adding that one or more orders are still expected before year-end.

Source: Flight International