Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B) said its new CSeries plane, designed to compete with top-selling models from Boeing Co. (BA:US) and Airbus SAS, is set to make its initial flight this month.
The Canadian company’s first fully-fledged jetliner “looks good” for a debut flight before the end of June, Chet Fuller, senior vice president for commercial, said today, adding that it won’t take off before the Paris Air Show starting 15 days from now.
Bombardier is betting that the CSeries’s entry into service next year will help spur sales following a six-month program delay. Hitches with the Boeing 787 and Airbus SAS A380 have also made it tougher for the No. 3 planemaker to strike deals for an all-new model that has so far secured 148 firm contracts.
“There is no faith, trust or belief in anything an airframe maker says today because of the program performance,” Fuller said in Cape Town prior to the International Air Transport Association annual meeting. “The industry has to fix itself. We are hoping we can be one of those elements that helps fix it.”
Bombardier aims to reveal undisclosed CSeries customers -- of which it has three -- at the Paris show, and is “guardedly optimistic” about announcing new sales there too, Fuller said.
The ability of the CSeries to operate from “hot and high” runways should help spur orders in an African market Bombardier expects to double in size over three to five years, he said.
Fuller said the CS100 model, seating as many as 135 people, together with the Q400 turboprop, are particularly suited to an African market where intra-regional demand is beginning to emerge even as climatic and infrastructure hurdles remain.
“We are really bullish on the CS100 in Africa,” he said. “That’s the airplane that will really open up markets.”
Bombardier’s African penetration is likely to increase from about 200 planes to 400 in tandem with the surge in demand, which the Montreal-based company expects to take an even shorter period to double again, the executive said.
The Canadian manufacturer is looking at a strong order pipeline in Africa for both the CSeries and Q400, he said. The market for the CRJ regional jet will also grow but is more complex, according to Fuller.
The CS300, the larger model, should be 12,000 pounds lighter than Airbus (EAD)’s A319neo and offer 12 to 15 percent better performance, Fuller said. Boeing’s new 737-7 Max is not competitive on a per-seat basis, he said.
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