The Bombardier CSeries Rolls Out but is it A Game Changer?

Reported by: Airchive.com webmaster, Chris Sloan in Montreal Duval

Updated: March 8, 2013  12:37AM

On Thursday March 7, 2013 Bombardier introduced to the world what it and its customers believe is a game changing line of aircraft, the Bombardier CSeries. This ultra fuel efficient, partial-composite / advanced aluminum construction, ducted turbofan line of aircraft, with advanced 787 Dreamliner like cabin and passenger experience features is the first “clean sheet design” regional / short-to-medium haul category in a decade. Even more significantly, it attempts to create a new successful class of aircraft that could one day rival the duopoly of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families.

 

This is the first full image of the CSeries CS100 released to the public. Photographed undergoing final fitting of engines and cabin door, the photo was released on Bombardier’s Twitter feed less then 2 weeks before roll-out.
Image courtesy: Bombardier.

Bombardier is not new to game changing aircraft. 20 years ago, Bombardier Aerospace first changed the game, and indeed created a new category of airliners – the first modern 50 seat “Regional Jet”, with the CRJ100/200 series. With the first entry into service of the Canadair Regional Jet CRJ100 and CRJ200 in 1992 and 1996 respectively, Bombardier’s RJs became a phenomenal success for both the manufacturer and their airline customers. Indeed by the time production concluded in 2006, a total of 938 examples of both types were in operation. In the low fuel price environment and economic high gear era of the 1990s, the CRJs became much sought after by passengers and airlines as replacements for turbo-prop equipment such as the ATR series and ironically, Bombardier’s Dash 8, which would both later undergo a renaissance. In spite of their fairly high cost-per-passenger mile, The CRJs opened up new city pairs, new levels of comfort and smoothness (compared to the turboprops), bought jet service to smaller markets, and took regional airlines such as American eagle, SkyWest, and ASA to new heights. The CRJ’s success spawned their chief Brazilian competitor, Embraer to launch their own competitors in the 37-50 seat category in the form of the ERJ 135/145, launching service in late 1996.

 

The Delta Connection brand through its subsidiaries and partners such as ASA, the former ComAir, and SkyWest, is one of the world’s largest CRJ operators. The CRJ200s are being retired quickly and have now been limited to routes of less then 2 hours in duration or 700 miles. This CRJ-200 is seen at the airline’s home base and hub at Atlanta.
Image from Airchive.com

The Embreaer ERJ-135/145 series, first entering service in late 1996, were the first major competitors to Bombardier’s CRJ100/200 series during the boom years of the small Regional Jet.
Image provided by: Airchive.com

The small regional jet party came to an end in the 2000s as 2 recessions, post 9/11 air traffic collapse, deteriorating airline balance sheets, and most of all sharply escalating fuel prices particularly in 2008 sealed its fate. To put things in perspective, a gallon of jet fuel cost bottomed out a $.30 USD in January, 1999; peaked at $3.89 per gallon in July, 2008; and stands at $3.09 in January 2013. Even adjusted for inflation, this is 7.5X increase.

 

This price of jet fuel has risen exponentially since the regional jets gained prominence in the mid 1990s. More then any other factor, the escalating price of fuel has hastened the demise of the smaller RJs, yet has been the catalyst for innovation on the higher end of the market.
Chart courtesy: Mundi.com

Airlines began to not only reduce flying the first generation 35-50 seat regional jets, but wrote their values down to zero in many cases. They are being grounded en mass. Their former passenger fans have abandoned them, especially in the face of newer larger RJs and the fact that airlines used their RJs on some very long stages as they replaced mainline operations. As proof of this trend, according to “The Wall Street Journal” Delta has limited the 50-seaters to trips of a maximum of 2 hours or 700 miles. The few airlines that created branded services based on these expensive to operate regional airliners such as ACA’s Independence Air and ExpressJet’s self-branded service learned the hard way that these small RJs couldn’t compete on a cost-per-passenger basis and they folded their wings. Ironically, the aircraft the smaller RJs replaced such as the Dash 8, Q400, ATR-42, and ATR-72 in turn replaced the RJs. One study calculated that the use of a 50-seat Regional Jet would break even at 45 (out of 50) passenger seats compared to the Q400′s 35–36 seats (around 55% breakeven load factor). Most short-haul routes are less than 350 miles, so the time spent on taxiing, takeoff and landing overrides an RJ’s speed advantage. As the Bombardier Q400′s 414 mph cruise speed approaches jet speeds, short-haul airlines can usually replace a regional jet with a Q400 without changing their gate-to-gate schedules. Such was the case as even long-time successful Alaska Air subsidiary Horizon Air was forced to convert its all RJ fleet to an all Q400 fleet. Alternately, some airlines such as Delta upgraded their smaller CRJs to Boeing 717s purchased from Southwest, following the AirTran merger.

 

The turboprops which were replaced by the smaller regional jets are themselves being replaced by newer more fuel efficient, higher capacity turboprops such as the Dash 8 Q400. These aircraft promise near jet speeds and block times particularly on the short-haul rotes. Alaska’s Horizon Air has replaced their entire CRJ200 fleet with Bombardier Q400s. This example is photographed at SEA-TAC in February 2013.
Image provided by: Airchive

Atlantic Coast Airlines, who mainly flew contract regional flying for United Airlines, launched Independence Air in 2004. With the exception of a few Airbus A319s delivered near the end, it lasted 18 months until the high cost of CRJ operations and fierce competition led to its demise in January, 2006.
Image provided by: Airchive.com

The Boeing 717, though long discontinued, is an indirect competitor to the CSeries CS100. Delta is replacing many of its early RJs with larger RJs, and new small mainline 717s leased from Southwest. This AirTran 717 is seen landing at Boston Logan.
Image provided by: Airchive.com

Back to happier times when they were flush with cash, healthy backlogs, ambition, demands from airlines for additional capacity, and perhaps even some clairvoyance as noted above, Bombardier and Embraer set their sights on larger designs. This foresight turned out to be correct as the market in the larger category of RJs continues to be healthy even as the smaller RJs precipitously decline. In the last 10 years, passenger traffic on RJs (classified as planes from 30-90 seats) has more than tripled according to the Department of Transportation. RJs are logging longer flights now with some stages close to four hours and the flight distance growing by 50%. According to a recent article in “The Wall Street Journal”, “Regional airlines fly 64% of the takeoffs and landings at Chicago’s O’Hare International, 74% at Seattle-Tacoma and 52% at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Still, the 50-seat jet, which is less fuel-efficient per-seat than bigger regional jets, remains the backbone of regional airline service and 43% of the entire regional airline fleet.”

Few airlines operating CRJ-200s under their own brands have succeeded. Mesa Air’s Go! Hawaii subsidiary has been operating since 2006 by often undercutting its competitors fares. This has often resulted in money losing operations, especially given the CRJs relative high cost of operation. This ex-Independence Air CRJ200 is seen at the Honolulu base in 2007.
Image provided by Airchive.com

The 2-2 50-seat cabin of the CRJ200 became quite tight as airline’s flew over 3 hour flights, replacing mainline aircraft in some cases. Passenger acceptance began to fall when the RJs were deployed away from their original short-haul missions.
Image provided by: Airchive

Bombardier was first to explore the possibility of larger RJs, first considered purchasing the struggling Dutch manufacturer Fokker to gain access to the F-100 line. Then they looked at the BRJX, “Bombardier Regional Jet eXpansion” with a similar configuration to the CSeries with 2-3 seating and under-wing engines. Instead Bombardier opted for the conservative route: choosing to stretch, re-engine, and re-wing the CRJ200 into the CRJ700/900 line with maximum seating of 78 and 90 seats respectively. The CRJ700 entered service in 2001 with Brit Air while the CRJ900 entered service in 2003 with Mesa Air.  In December 2010 Bombardier began delivering the 90-104 passengers stretched CRJ1000 to launch customers Nostrum and Brit Air. With over 730 deliveries and orders as of December, 2012 the CRJ 700/900/1000 series is an unqualified success. Not one to be complacent and in response to the E-Jets, Bombardier launched an enhanced CRJ700/900 NextGen series in 2008. The stretch CRJs are capable of being fitted with First Class cabins and Wi-Fi and are a substantial improvement over the initial CRJ100/200s in efficiency and comfort, though the narrow 2-2 cross section remains unchanged. Indeed, this line has been the cash cow for Bombardier Aerospace, taking over for the CRJ200.

 

The CRJ700, entering service, in 2001 formed the foundation for the next generation of larger CRJs, including the CRJ900/CRJ1000. This United Express CRJ700 was captured at Knoxville TYS in October, 2011.
Image provided by: Airchive

Embraer chose to answer with an entirely new design: the E-Jets whose success would eventually spur the CSeries. The  E-170 was built to compete with the CRJ700 and the E-175 was built to compete with the CRJ-900. They featured under-wing engines and wider fuselage then their competition. The E-170/175 first entered service respectively in 2004 with LOT and 2005 with Air Canada. With this success under its belt, Embraer leaped frog Bombardier with the stretched, new-winged, and larger engine E-190 and E-195, in essence creating a new class of aircraft. The E-190 and E-195 featured seating up to 114 and 122 passengers respectively. Jet Blue took delivery of its first E-190 in 2004 while FlyBe began the E-195 operations shortly after. The E-190, in particular, has emerged as the most popular of the E-Jets. The upsized E-Jets upstaged their secondary downsized competitors the Airbus A318, Boeing 737-600, and Boeing 717 (MD-95). These aircraft weren’t very successful and have basically been discontinued. Combined, the E-Jets as of December 2012 have 908 deliveries and 1093 firm orders with the bulk of the market concentrated in the larger E-190/195s. Clearly Embraer had the edge and near monopoly, particularly in the larger class RJs. With momentum shifting to its formidable competitor to the South, Bombardier needed to not only respond, but had to respond big with a game changing design.

 

The Embraer ERJ-170, launched in 2004 with LOT, competes directly with the Bombardier CRJ-700 but raised the bar, and provided the platform for the larger E-Jets E-190/E-195, that would eventually influence Bombardier to revive its CSeries program. This United Express E-170 was one of the first delivered in 2004 and was photographed in December 2013 “behind enemy lines” near Bombardier’s headquarters at Montreal Pierre Trudeau Airport.
Image provided by Airchive.com

The Embraer E-Jets, beginning with the E-170, set a new standard for passenger comfort in the RJ class. This cabin is belongs to a JetBlue E-190, the most successful variant thus far.
Image provided by Airchive.com

The Embraer E-Jets, beginning with the E-170, set a new standard for passenger comfort in the RJ class. This cabin is belongs to a JetBlue E-190, the most successful variant thus far.
Image provided by Airchive.com

The Airbus A318, launched in 2003, has been the weakest seller on the Airbus A318/319/320/321 family. It’s reduced capacity translates into a higher-cost-per-passenger-mile then its larger stablemates. A number of these relative aircraft are being broken up with their parts being more valuable then the entire flying airframe. This Avianca example was photographed in February 2013 at Sao Paulo GRU.
Image provided by: Airchive

The Boeing 737-600 is comparable in size, range, and capacity to the CSeries CS100. The Boeing has a slight edge over the CS100 in seating capacity with 130 and 125 seats respectively in maximum density. First introduced, The 737-600 isn’t a direct competitor per se as with only 69 deliveries, the smallest 737NG is now out of production. Image courtesy: launch customer SAS

Bombardier initially announced the CSeries (then known as the C110 and C130) in March 2005. The new CSeries would be the first RJ to access the next vanguard of aviation technology such as a high percentage of composites and new lightweight lithium aluminum for its wings and fuselage, and very fuel-efficient high-bypass geared turbofan engines under the wing.  Looking closer, the majority of the fuselage would be constructed out of a new lighter weight lithium aluminum. The empennage, tail-cone, wing, and horizontal/vertical stabilizers would be constructed of composites. Bombardier didn’t feel the additional lighter weight full composite fuselage would justify the additional production challenges and costs, especially on a shorter-range jet. In retrospect, this seems like a smart decision. The smaller C110, with up to 125 seats, would compete directly with the E-195, and secondarily with the Boeing 737-600, Airbus A318, and Boeing 717. The C110’s 125 maximum passenger capacity would be comparable to the E-195’s 122 max passenger capacity. The CSeries would have a wider 5 abreast cabin width of 10.75 feet compared to 9 feet wide and 4 abreast seating in economy in the E-195, allowing the CSeries to have wider seats and/or aisles. In terms of passenger appeal 80% of seats would be on an aisle or window, but the middle seats would have the potential to be larger and/or have larger arm rests. It would feature larger windows then any other airliner except the 787 Dreamliner measuring 11 X 16 inches. The C110 maximum seating capacity would be slightly less then the A318’s 132 passengers and 737-600s 130 passengers. However, the C110 would be 12 and 13 feet longer respectively then the A318 and 737-600 respectively. The CSeries’ 5 abreast cabin, seating in economy and 10.75 cabin width, would be quite a bit narrower then the 737’s  6 abreast 11 feet, 7 inches cabin and the A318/319/320’s 6 abreast 12 feet, 2 inches cabin.

 

A CGI conception of the Bombardier CSeries CS100 prototype in-flight. The first flight of the CS100 is scheduled for mid-2013 with service entry in 2014 for Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss European Air Lines.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

An CGI conception of the Bombardier CSeries CS100 prototype in-flight. The first flight of the CS100 is scheduled for mid-2013 with service entry in 2014 for Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss European Air Lines.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The seating chart of the CSeries CS100 shows 3 configurations ranging from 2-class low density to high density. The CS100 cabin is wider then the competing E-Jet 2-2 cabin allowing for slightly wider seats and/or aisles and a 5 abreast seating configuration in economy.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

 

Bombardier CSeries CS100 versus Competing Aircraft

The 2nd variant, the C130, at 124 feet, 10 inches, would be 9 feet and 10 inches longer then the shorter 115 feet long, C110. The wingspan of both aircraft, however, would both be the same at 115 feet. The stretched C130, with initially up to 135-145 seats would compete with the Boeing 737-700’s 148 maximum seats and Airbus A319’s 142 maximum seats. However, there hasn’t been significant new interest in aircraft of this sizie: the 737-700 Max has no orders at press-time and the Airbus A319 Neo has just a handful due to improved economics with the larger aircraft moving forward. Thus, the CS300 isn’t yet a direct competitor to the A320 / 737 family just yet. With the larger CSeries meeting and in many cases exceeding its competition, this clearly signaled Bombardier’s intentions to take on the big boys in Seattle and Toulouse, not to mention it’s arch-nemesis in Brazil. It is clearly viewed as a threat however. Airbus is rumored to be selling A320s at prices similar to the CSeries 300 to prevent the nascent Canadian aircraft from encroaching into its market.

 

An CGI conception of the smaller CSeries CS100 alongside its larger sibling the CS300 in-flight. The CS100 is designed for a maximum payload of 125 passengers, while the CS130 is designed to transport up to 160 passengers via a 9′ 7″ fuselage stretch from 115 feet to 124.7 feet.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The seating chart of the CSeries CS300 shows 3 configurations ranging from 2-class low density to high density. The CS300 cabin is wider then the competing E-Jet 2-2 cabin allowing for slightly wider seats and/or aisles and a 5 abreast seating configuration in economy.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

Bombardier CSeries CS100 versus CS300

Bombardier CSeries CS300 versus Competing Aircraft

In spite of lining up the required financing and support from the governments of Canada, its home Province of Quebec, and the UK, Bombardier put the CSeries program on hold on January 31, 2006 after failing to secure enough orders to move ahead. Bombardier’s attention shifted to the CR1000. Just a year later on January 31, 2007, Bombardier restarted work on the CSeries. The aforementioned specifications and dimensions were locked in and the real development and marketing began. Late that year, Bombardier announced that an entirely new engine – the Pratt and Whitney PurePower Geared Turbofan would be the exclusive power plant for the plane.

 

An artists conception of the CSeries larger sibling, the CS300. The CS300 already has 114 orders versus its baby brother, the CS100′s 68 orders. Its launch customer is unusually an airliner lessor: Lease Corporation International. The stretched CS300 seats up to 160 passengers making it a competitor to the Boeing 737-700 and Airbus A319. Rollout, first flight, and EIS are currently scheduled to be a year later then the CS100.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

On February 22, 2008 the CSeries was officially made available for marketing to airline customers. Even amidst a deteriorating economic backdrop but perhaps spurred on by the sharply spiking fuel prices, Bombardier announced the official launch of the CSeries on July 13, 2007 at the Farnborough Air Show. The key details announced were that launch customer, Lufthansa, had ordered 60 aircraft (including 30 options) for its Swiss European subsidiary. Bombardier also announced that final assembly would be an new line alongside the CRJ700/900/1000 line at Montreal’s Mirabel Airport. Additional major components, in particular the composite based wings and certain fuselage sections, would be built at the Bombardier factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The forward and some fuselage sections, as well as the cockpit, were supplied by Bombardier’s St-Laurent facility. The CSeries program has several major suppliers including Sheyyang Aircraft of China who contributes the rear barrel, Italian 787 contractor Alenia supplies the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, Zodiac provides the seating, bins, and cabin furnishings; and Rockwell Collins supplies the avionics suite (more on this later). Like the 787, these vendors reportedly have some equity and risk-sharing stakes in the program.

 

Shenyang Aircraft of China contributes the rear fuselage.
Image from: Airchive.com

 

In a major March 2009 announcement, the aircraft were officially rebranded the CSeries CS100 and CSeries CS300. The C110 name always seemed like it could be confused with the military freighter. The CS100 title echoes the baseline-seating configuration of 100 seats, but there’s no clear reason as to the significance of the CS300 branding or why CS200 was skipped over…for now. At the same time, airline-leasing company Lease Corporation International unusually became the launch customer of the larger CS300, ordering 17 of these in addition to 3 of the smaller CS100s.

 

An CGI conception of a launch customer Swiss European Airlines Bombardier CSeries CS100 prototype in-flight. The first flight of the CS100 is scheduled for mid-2013 with service entry in 2014.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

Over the next 5 years, orders from 13 customers totaling 66 for the CS100 and 114 for the larger CS300 accrued for a total of 180 orders, hardly a “barn burning number” but enough to move forward with the program. Bombardier doesn’t confirm these numbers however saying they have orders and commitments for 382 CSeries. Given the harsh worldwide economic conditions of the last few years and this being unchartered territory for Bombardier, the number is respectable but needs to grow quickly to come anywhere near Bombardier’s targets. Additional orders came from Republic Airways Holdings, Korean Air, Braathens Leasing, AtlasJet, Latvia’s airBaltic, and ironically Ilyushin Finance. Russia and the CIS are considered to be major markets for the CSeries. It is hoped more order from frontline operators come forward for the aircraft as it moves toward entry into service. United reportedly has kicked the tires, but surprisingly there are no orders from major Canadian carriers Air Canada or WestJet as of yet.

 

 Bombardier considers Eastern Europe, Russia, and the CIS key prospects for CSeries sales.

Even though sales haven’t set the world on fire, Bombardier conceives us the CSeries of anything but a niche aircraft. Bridging the RJ and 737/A320 gap in the 100-149 passenger ranger, they forecast the market to be over 19,000 aircraft and $250 billion in revenue over the next 20 years. Further, they very optimistically expect to capture up to half of this market with the CSeries, identifying the aircraft as the future of the company. Analysts have suggested that Airbus and Boeing are being so competitive on pricing for their current and next generation narrow body aircraft, that Bombardier is having difficulty being as competitive, hence diminishing sales.

A model of the CSeries CS100 in the lobby at Bombardier’s Mirabel Factory
Image from: Airchive.com

A model of the larger CSeries variant, the CS300. A close competitor to the Boeing 737-600 and Airbus A319, the larger CS300 is due to enter service in 2015, following a 2014 first flight.

Image from: Airchive.com

 The proof will be in the pudding, and the pudding is definitely a new recipe in the class with major technical advancements. In today’s high fuel price environment and razor-thin profit margins, fuel burn and operating costs are the leading consideration. Bombardier claims a 15% cash operating costs advantage and 20% fuel burn advantage over the E-Jets and other competition. Further, they claim a 25% direct maintenance cost savings. Environmental benefits run a close second. Bombardier promises the CSeries produces 50% fewer NOx emissions relative to its competition and has a 4 times quieter noise footprint. Bombardier achieves these gains via 70% of the airframe being constructed of advanced materials such as composites and carbon-fiber (though not to the extent of the 787 or A350XWB) and the next generation engines. These technologies allow for greatly reduced weight and maintenance. The manufacturer claims the CSeries aircraft will be up to 12,000 lbs lighter than other aircraft in the same seat category. Importantly, the CSeries doesn’t rely on the extensive electrical architecture as the 787 and uses traditional Nickel-Cadmium batteries as opposed to the problem plagued lithium-ion batteries that have bedeviled the Dreamliner.

 

CSeries Advanced Technology Overview Slide from Rollout Event.
Image from: Airchive.com

The CSeries main fuselage uses an advanced lithium aluminum technology which provides weight reduction, but reduces some of the costs associated with pure composites.
Image from: Airchive.com

The ultra-efficient, high bypass Pratt and Whitney PurePower 1500 Geared Turbofan generates up to 23,000 pounds of thrust while reducing fuel burn 20-25% and decreasing the noise footprint by up to 4X.
Image from: Airchve.com

Key to this gained efficiency is obviously the selection of the engines. As mentioned before, Bombardier selected the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G PurePower engine as the exclusive power plant for the CSeries. Competing aircraft, such as the upcoming A320 Neo, Embraer’s next generation E-Jets, and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet have jumped on the “fanwagon” by ordering the PW1500G.  This high-bypass geared turbofan develops 23,300 pounds of thrust through the use of advanced combustion technology, what P&W calls a Fan Drive Gear System, an ultra-high 12:1 bypass ration (highest in class), fewer stages and airfoils, and advanced nacelle technologies.  These engines contribute to giving the CSeries a maximum range of 2,950 miles, a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and a maximum take-off weight of 128,200 pounds for the CS100 and 139,600 pounds for the CS130.

 

The Pratt & Whitney PW1500G Geared Turbofan PurePower engine is considered a game changer due to its significantly improved efficiency (up to 20% fuel burn advantage in conjunction with lightweight airframe), high thrust output (18,900 – 23,300 lbs), very quiet noise footprint, and substantially reduced emissions.
Image courtesy: Pratt & Whitney

 

Seen on a Boeing 747 testbed, the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G Geared Turbofan PurePower engine is considered a game changer due to its significantly improved efficiency (up to 20% fuel burn advantage in conjunction with lightweight airframe), high thrust output (18,900 – 23,300 lbs), very quiet noise footprint, and substantially reduced emissions.
Image courtesy: Pratt & Whitney

The spacious and very visible flight deck is also very advanced, and in fact features Bombardier’s first use of sidestick three-axis full fly-by-wire controls and a new auto-throttle system. The Rockwell Collins Avionics Suite features the now compulsory large LCD displays, dual FMS (Flight Management System) with optimized control and display functions, dual CCD (Cursor Control System), datalink, sensed electronic checklist, and Cat llla autoland abilities. Optional features include single or dual EFB (Electronic Flight Bag), Cat lllb autoland capability and HUD (Single/ Dual Head Up Display) to optimize flight preparation, operation and mission completion. Key to efficiency in this category is the new RNP0.1 technology that allows the CSeries precise fly routes, continuous descent, optimized missions and approaches, and reduced emissions and noises. In another spark of ergonomic innovation, the radio panel is integrated into the glareshield.

 

The ultra-modern CSeries flight deck features the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite with optional Electronic Flight Bags (EFB’s) and Heads-up displays (HUD’s). There are five 15.1″ displays with two primary flight displays (PFD) on the outboard and two inboard and a center console multifunction displays (MFD) that allow for information to move across multiple screens. The three-axis full fly-by-wire side-stick flight controls is a first in this category.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

 

 

 

Until the arrival of the Embraer’s E-Jets, the passenger experience in RJs was often ignored. The E-Jets set a new standard with their 2-2 abreast cabin that allowed for wider seats then even the A320s and 737s. They were also designed for seatback IFE from the start. The CSeries claims to bring a wide-body feel to a narrow-body class with its cabin allowing for 5-10% wider seats (with the middle seat being 10% bigger then the aisle or window). Like the 787 and upcoming A350XWB, the CSeries boasts cabin enhancement features most of which are entirely new to its class: larger windows, dynamic LED mood-lighting, upsized overhead binds offering 20-25% more volume than its narrow-body competition, and a lower cabin altitude.

 

The CSeries cabin has a number of features that raise the bar for airliners in the 100-149 seat class, that are only found in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and forthcoming Airbus A350XWB. This includes Dynamic LED lighting, larger windows, and massive overhead bins. Compared to its direct competitor, the Embraer E-Jets, the cabin is 1′, 9″ wider allowing for a 2-3 5-abreast configuration in economy yet slightly wider seats and/or aisles.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

Like the Embraer E-Jets, the CSeries is available with optional seatback IFE units.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The CSeries aircraft has the largest overhead bin cross-section in its class, offering 20%-25% more volume per passenger than current state-of-the-art narrowbody aircraft. Bins that are big enough to hold oversized carry-on bags measuring 24 x 17 x 11 inches. The windows are not only the largest on any narrow body, but are close in size to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and upcoming Airbus A350XWB.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The forward entry area seems to offer an optional buffet area, which would be a first in this category.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The lavatories set a new standard in the 100-149 seat class with LED lighting and standard, high quality finishes.
Image courtesy: Bombardier

The rollout, billed as a Program Update, was held at Bombardier’s Montreal Mirabel manufacturing facility where all the company’s commercial airline production operations are now concentrated. The packed house of 200 journalists, analysts, customers, and VIPs were joined by an event simultaneously taking place at Bombardier’s wing manufacturing facility in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Video packages from major suppliers around the world were also part of the mix. The entire event was webcast to the world. Mike Arcamone, President Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and Rob Dewar, vice-president and general manager of the CSeries development program  presided over much of these announcements in a clearly excited, but well-paced, emcee fashion. With dramatic lighting and slide presentations in French and English, this being Quebec after all, the program began with a number of product updates to be shared.

 

The Program Update was hosted by Mike Arcamone, President Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
Image from: Airchive.com

Nearly 300 journalists, customers, vendors, employees, executives and VIPs were onhand for the CSeries rollout.
Image from: Airchive.com

In the first of the morning’s big announcements, Bombardier confirmed the rumored launch (first reported in November, 2012 by Flight Global) of its new 160 seat extra capacity option. This option, available in all CSeries CS300 models will be achieved by reducing seat pitch to 28” using Zodiac slim-line seats and adding an extra set of emergency exits over the doors. This option ups the original maximum capacity of 135-45 seats. Air Baltic of Latvia will be the first of the three launch customers of this option, but will operate their aircraft in the 148 seat range. With the extra capacity option, Bombardier claims an 8% increase in seat economics over the baseline CS300. Firing a shot at Boeing and Airbus, the Canadian manufacturer boasts a passenger-seat-mile-cost comparable to 180 seat aircraft such as the 737-800 and A320. This is a key point as the lower capacity 737-700 and Airbus A319s are achieving fewer and fewer new orders. Perhaps not wanting to completely provoke the competition, the Bombardier executives did reiterate that the sweet target spot of the CSeries remains the 100-149 seat market, however.  The sweet spot of the market is 160-200 seats of the 737-800 and A320 and Aracome says “if we ever decide (to stretch). We have the capability”. Indeed, this has been a hallmark of Bombardier with the CRJ series.

 

The big announcement at the Rollout was Bombardier’s announced an Extra Seating Option for the CS300 taking max seating up to 160 passengers, improving the cost-per-passenger-mile economics by 8%, closing in on 180 seat aircraft such as the A320 and 737-800.
Image from: Airchive.com

 

 

The inevitable questions concerning firm orders and break-even points came up. Arcamone would only say that they have 180 firm orders booked though they confidently expect to have 300 orders from 20 customers firmed up by the time the CSeries 100 enters service in mid-2014. They would not breakdown the ratio of orders between the CS100 and CS300 but it is thought the larger, more cost-efficient model outsells its baby brother by more then a 2:1 margin at this point. Even though Lufthansa and their Swiss European Airlines is the launch customer, they also would not officially disclose who would fly the CS100 first at EIS, saying it is an “undisclosed customer”.

The program timeline indicates all the aforementioned dates remain on track, with the CS100 still expected to take its first flight by June 30, 2013 and the flight-testing program to begin shortly thereafter. EIS will be mid-2014. The CS300 first flight and EIS is still in the 2014/2015 timeframe respectively. A key piece of news toward meeting this timeline is the announcement that Canadian aviation authorities had certified the new P&W 1500 turbo-fans and that 2 had been delivered to Bombardier.

 

The CSeries C100 Development Timeline slide
Image from: Airchive.com

The program updated indicates systems and integration are right on schedule. The major headline came from Belfast where on Saturday March 2nd, the carbon-fiber wing passed its upload gust test on the static test aircraft (CAST) where it was pulled upwards of 5 feet from its standard dihedral angle. The next update concerns “Aircraft 0”, the Integrated System Test and Certification Rig (ISTCR), which tests flight surfaces, landing gear, hydraulics, and electrics simulates the forces and conditions the airplane will have in service. It is equipped with 85% of the components on an actual aircraft, always staying ahead of the flight test program. Bombardier announced that 99% of pre-FTV 1 first flight tests are complete. This rig will be used continuously after EIS to improve the reliability of the aircraft. This is controlled from a full cockpit overlooking the rig.

 

The Integrated System Test and Certification Rig (ISTCR) also known as “Aircraft Zero”
Image from: Airchive.com

An update on the composite carbon-fiber wing built at the CSeries Bombardier Plant.
Image from: Airchive.com

An image of the Wing Upload Test that was completed at Bombardier’s Belfast, Nortern Ireland facility just days before the rollout.
Image from: Airchive.com

A slide of the CAST Static Display Aircraft
Image from: Airchive.com

On the manufacturing side, Bombardier confirmed that after the first few test and production aircraft are built in a temporary line at Mirablel, the new pulsing, moving final assembly line opening in 2014 would be capable of producing up to 100 CSeries per year. They didn’t disclose the date they would reach this level however. Bombardier has had lots of experience with out-sourcing and with the simpler structure, this does seem like a realistic goal.

 

A model of Bombardier’s new factory building and line for the CSeries. The pulsing, moving assembly line is scheduled to open in 2014. Once optimized, it will be able to produce up to 100 CSeries per year.
Image from Airchive.com

Additional slides highlight that the operation Environmental Control Systems and Interiors Test Rig which tests air systems, lighting, cabin management systems, audio, and seats just had its galleys installed with seats to come within 2 week. At that point, full cabin testing can begin. The EISM Engineering Simulation, that is very similar to a training simulator minus motion, has long been up and running and is where the test pilots are undergoing their sim time on the ground. Another key difference is the EISM features exact airplane components. The first motion simulator is due in 3 months away.

 

The EISM Engineering Simulation slide shown during the program update.
Image from: Airchive.com

After all the briefings concluded, the crescendo arrived. With the theatrics of a Las Vegas show, the projection screen lifted to reveal FTV-1, the first CSeries. Bathed in a dramatic dark blue light and smoky dry ice effects, de-emphasizing its unpainted “green” state and flanked by proud Bombardier employees, the aircraft received a standing ovation for its first performance. Some may argue the program’s long-term prospects but even in this un-finished state (with missing fairings), everyone agreed the aggressively sculpted aircraft looked beautiful, and was practically begging to fly. Of course, it was a bit of a surprise that Bombardier didn’t paint their first aircraft in a flashy livery as others have done, and it is unknown whether to what extent it will be painted for the first flight. To their credit of not hiding anything, Bombardier did raise the house lights so the audience could see the detail of the still impressive unfinished aircraft. Almost instantly following the event, workers surrounded the aircraft and resumed their round the clock 3-shift schedule to get the aircraft airworthy.

 

The curtain goes up on the first CSeries as CS100 FTV-1 is unveiled to the public. This lighting spectacle worthy of a Las Vegas show provided a does of theater to the unpainted prototype. The aircraft received a “standing O”.
Image from: Airchive.com

 

 Everyone expected the CSeries to be rolled out but what they didn’t expect was that Bombardier had a big surprise up their sleeve! Minutes after the unveiling of the CS100, they dropped another curtain to reveal 3 more flight test aircraft in some cases advanced forms of build: FTV-1, 2, and 3. This unexpected moment drew another round of cacophonous applause. Bombardier will have 7 FTV’s “Flight Test Vehicles” (a “NASA” way of saying “aircraft”) in their flight testing program: 5 CS100s and 2 CS300s. FTV-1 will be used more for aerodynamic flight dynamics tests while FTV-2 will be heavily focused on avionics. CS100 FTV-5 will be the first with the passenger cabin.

The CSeries’ 2nd test aircraft, a CS100 called “FTV-2″, Flight Test Vehicle 2 will be focusing heavy on avionics during the test program. It is one of 7 FTV’s in the flight test program. The FTV’s were a surprise reveal at the CSeries rollout.

Image from: Airchive.com

 

The CSeries 3rd test aircraft, a CS100 called “FTV-3″, Flight Test Vehicle 3 was a surprise reveal on the CSeries rollout day.
Image from: Airchive.com

Virtually all recent commercial aircraft programs timelines have slipped and the CSeries is no exception, though certainly its much less complicated supply and manufacturing chain has thus far led to much fewer and shorter delays then the admittedly much larger and more technologically demanding Airbus A380 and Boeing 787. The first flight of the C100 was originally confirmed for the second half of 2012 and then December 2012. Deliveries were confirmed to begin by the end of 2013. With roll out on March 7, 2013 the first flight date has obviously slipped but is pegged to be no later than June 30th. First power-up is expected within 2 weeks. If the 12-month flight test and certification program remains on schedule, deliveries will commence in mid-to-late 2014. The C300s timeline is about a year later with first flight in 2014 and deliveries commencing in 2015. Of course, the just-in-time delivery, lean manufacturing process, the successful activation of the pulsing/moving production line, and the dependability of the CSeries’ suppliers will impact this as well.

 

Following the unveiling, Bombardier turned on the factory lights allowing for the close inspection of the unpainted “green” FTV-1 CSeries CS100. Employees working on 3 shifts 24/7 almost immediately resumed their work.
Image from Airchive.com

A big question is how competitors A, B, & E will respond once the aircraft enters service. In response to the CSeries, Embraer considered the idea of a fresh design, but as Bombardier did with its CRJ700/900/1000 series instead chose the conservative route. They announced they would counter the CSeries with updated 2nd generation versions of their E-Jets, further amortizing the costs of the platform. The new E-Jets, announced in 2011, would feature a slightly stretched fuselage, a new composite based wing, and taller landing gear to accommodate a much more fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engine, similar to that of the C-Series. According to “Flight Global”, Embraer has said the next generation E-Jets tentatively titled the 198, should appear between 2016-2018 but these haven’t been confirmed.

 

With Boeing and Airbus both choosing to go with their next generation 737 Max and A320 Neo versions of their cash cow aircraft instead of fresh designs, Bombardier looks to have the technological edge in the lower capacity portion of this market at least until the middle of the 2020s. Claiming 20-25% increases in fuel efficiency without resorting to more vanguard technologies that they claim is more apparent in the long haul and could threaten their current cash cows, Boeing and Airbus bowed to their shareholders and airlines who wanted a quicker solution and also chose the conservative route. This is perhaps understandable given all the challenges and costs of brining the new technologies to market in aircraft such as the A380 and 787. Of course, that timeline could change if the CSeries proves to be a success and is further stretched to compete with the heart of Boeing and Airbus: the Boeing 737-800, 737-8 Max and Airbus A320, A320 Neo. Airbus in particular is known to take the CSeries as a serious threat. It is reportedly being particularly aggressive at trying to inflict serious injury on the program with aggressive pricing to dissuade customers away from the CSeries. In a nod to not wanting history to repeat itself, Airbus is said to believe Boeing wasn’t aggressive enough in warding off the Airbus A320 at its birth and doesn’t want to be in the same position vis-à-vis Bombardier.

 

Boeing’s 4th generation 737 Max line is scheduled for first deliveries in 2017. In response to the first-mover A320neo, its customers, the inherent risk of a clean sheet design, and cannibalizing sales of its cash cow 737 line, the manufacturer decided to against pursuing an entirely new aircraft as was originally considered. Boeing claims a 15-20% savings in fuel efficiency and operating costs over the current 3rd generation 737s.
CGI image courtesy: Boeing

Airbus, its hands full with development of the Airbus A350XWB and still enjoying record sales of its best-selling aircraft, the A320, decided the 2nd generation of the aircraft would be a significant update called the A320neo “new engine option”. They promise a 16% fuel burn decrease over the current model. Launched in 2010, with a promised Deliveries are due to begin in 2015. Airbus currently leads the 737 Max with over 1500 orders placed. By not developing an all-new aircraft, Boeing followed suit and chose to update its 737 as the 737 Max, pushing its all-new design possibly into the mid 2020s.
CGI image courtesy: Airbus

Not to be overlooked, the 2000s have not been kind to smooth manufacturing, testing, deliveries, on-time entries into service, and in-flight reliability of any of these game-changing aircraft, to wit the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner. How smoothly the manufacturing ramp up is (Bombardier projects first year production will be 20-30 aircraft, and up to 120 a year by 3 1/2 years) how quickly the CSeries begins its deliveries (mid 2014), and perhaps most importantly how reliable it is once it enters service (Bombardier is promising s 99% dispatch reliability at EIS) will determine whether this aircraft is not only a game changer for Bombardier but for the entire industry.

 

The innovative Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, seen together at Hong Kong International Airport on the Dreamliner’s inaugural day, have faced numerous challenges leading up to and beyond their EIS.
Image provided by: Airchive.com

Bombardier has changed the game before, however, and the industry knows better then to bet against them. Responding to a particularly pointed question from “The Wall Street Journal’s” Jon Ostrower about Bombardier taking on the Airbus and Boeing duopoly, BCA President Mike Arcamone in a not thinly veiled reference to the upcoming Max and Neo, said “This is a real airplane not a paper airplane. This is not a re-engined aircraft but a new aircraft with a proven mix of new and proven technology. We will be there and we will win.”

Additional Resources:

  • Full Photo Gallery of CSeries Rollout and Bombardier Factory Tour Here.
  • Bombardier CSeries site Here.
  • Bombardier Aerospace site Here.
  • AirlineReporter.com story from 2011 on visit to CSeries mockup Here.
  • CRJ100/200 Aircraft, Cabins, and Flight Deck Images Here.
  • CRJ700/900 Aircraft, Cabins, and Flight Deck Images Here and Here.
  •  Embraer E-Jet Aircraft, Cabins, and Flight Deck Images Here.
  • Additional Coverage coming in Airways Magazine and Airline Reporter.
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