August 19, 2022

At Paris Air Show, an Affirmation for Bombardier

LE BOURGET, FRANCE — The head of Bombardier’s civil aircraft division said Wednesday that the new orders received this week for its latest regional jet, the C-Series, demonstrated that the program would be economically viable.

Gary R. Scott, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, also dismissed speculation that the Canadian plane maker would be obliged to abandon the project because of lack of demand.

“We are way beyond any uncertainty about the C-Series program,” Mr. Scott said during an interview at the Paris Air Show.

His comments came as Airbus and Boeing announced signed orders and commitments for more than $36 billion worth of new jets on Wednesday, bringing the total haul for the world’s two largest jet makers nearly $80 billion in three days.

Bombardier has announced two new deals for the 100-130 seat C-Series so far this week. On Tuesday, Korean Air said it had ordered 10 planes, worth more than $600 million, and also signed for 10 options and 10 purchase rights on the larger version, the C300. On Monday, Bombardier announced a 10-plane order from an unidentified “major network carrier.”

Bombardier now has 123 orders from seven customers for the plane, which is expected to enter service in 2013. Airlines have also purchased a similar number of options, bringing the company’s expected order book for the C-Series to around 250 planes.

Mr. Scott added that Bombardier was in discussions with a handful of other airlines and did not rule out the possibility of one more C-Series order during the air show, which ends on Sunday.

Analysts have stressed the need for Bombardier to line up more customers to help share the risk as well as the development and capital costs for the plane, currently estimated at around $3.4 billion. Mr. Scott declined to say when he expected the program — which has received about one-third of its financing from the Canadian government — to be profitable.

“We expect the C-Series will provide a good return to all of our stakeholders — government, suppliers and shareholders, and we are on track to do that,” Mr. Scott said. He predicted that the order backlog for the C-Series would be around 300 planes by the time it enters service in two years.

Still, others note that regional jets have seen far more limited sales growth in recent years than larger single-aisle and wide-body jets, particularly as fuel prices have risen. Commercial jets with fewer than 150 seats are expected to make up just 6 percent of new aircraft sales over the next 20 years, equivalent to about $70 billion. That is down from around 14 percent of sales from 2000 to 2010.

Mr. Scott dismissed repeated claims by Airbus that its A320neo — a revamped version of the fast-selling A320 with new, more fuel-efficient engines — had killed the business case for the C-Series.

“Our aircraft is optimized for the 100-150 seat market, while the A320neo is optimized for 150 seats and above,” Mr. Scott said. Per seat, he argued, the C-Series would be 12 percent more fuel-efficient than the A319neo, the smallest version of Airbus’s neo series. Neo stands for new engine option.

That said, Airbus was doing its best on Wednesday to tout the success of its revamped single-aisle jet, announcing more than 160 new A320neo orders and commitments. The total order book for the A320neo family now stands at more than 750 planes.

Among those was a commitment from Republic Airways, a U.S. airline holding company, to buy 80 A320neo family aircraft for use by its Frontier Airlines subsidiary. The deal is valued at $7 billion at list prices, though such large transactions normally are made at deep discounts.

The Colombian airline Avianca and LAN of Chile also ordered 33 and 20 A320neos, respectively.

Aviation Lease and Finance Co. of Kuwait ordered 30 A320neo jets and six A350-900 wide-body jets, valued at $4.3 billion at list prices.

The Indian budget carrier IndiGo on Wednesday formalized a record order for 180 Airbus single-aisle planes it announced in January. The deal, worth $16.6 billion at list prices, is for 150 A320neos and 30 classic A320s. It is the largest single order by number of aircraft in commercial aviation history.

Boeing, meanwhile, announced a large commitment for single-aisle planes from UTair Aviation of Russia. The carrier, based in Tyumen, Siberia, agreed to buy 40 next-generation Boeing 737 planes, including seven 737-900ERs and 33 737-800s, a deal worth $3.3 billion.

That deal was the largest announced so far at the air show for the 737, Boeing’s biggest-selling jet, with a backlog of more than 2,100 planes. Boeing is considering whether to follow Airbus’s lead and offer a version of that plane with a more fuel-efficient engine or to develop a new single-aisle jet for entry into service around 2020.

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