Bombardier Says NEO Will Boost CSeries

Airbus’ decision to re-engine most of its narrowbody family would boost Bombardier’s CSeries program rather than hinder sales, says the Canadian manufacturer’s top aerospace executive.

The European airframer claims its plan to offer two new engines on its Airbus A320, A321 and A319 starting in late 2012 makes the CSeries’ business case redundant. But Guy Hachey, president and chief operating officer for Bombardier Aerospace, not only dismisses such claims, but counters that Airbus’ re-engining program endorses his own aircraft.

“[Airbus’ decision] is not a surprise; we had always included this in our business case. We just didn’t know if it would be a re-engined aircraft or a new design,” said Hachey of Airbus’ NEO program during Bombardier’s Dec. 2 third quarter results conference call. “The uncertainty with some of competition in now gone…this brings stability. Now we can compare the CSeries with the NEO. We believe strongly that it [the CSeries] compares favorably,” he added.

Engine Question

According to Bombardier’s aerospace chief, Airbus’ choice of a Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan as one of the two new A320 engines should also end any debate that the CSeries’ own GTF will not meet specification. “In a way, we are delighted that another manufacturer has endorsed the GTF. Now we have four manufacturers, that is great for the engine,” said Hachey. “This should put to rest any question on the engine.”

Hachey also dismissed Airbus’ claim that the A320NEO’s fuel burn efficiencies exceed the CSeries’. “For a re-engined aircraft there will be savings, but putting an engine on an old design could not possibly provide the full savings potential,” noted Bombardier Aerospace’s president.

Countering Airbus’ claims, Hachey argued that the new engines proposed for the A319, A320 and A321 add “thousands of pounds” of weight onto an aging wing design that will only be compounded by Airbus’ plan to add a sharklet to the wingtip. Add drag from the larger- diameter engines planned for the NEO, and “all this deducts from the efficiencies,” said Hachey.

“We have a clean sheet design, where essentially half of the 20% efficiency savings come from the engine and the other half from the design,” he continued, adding that the CSeries’ fuel burn and operating cost comparisons with the A319NEO is “less than it was, but still double digit.”

Despite this argument, the CSeries has so far failed to generate a significant backlog for an aircraft that is expected to enter service in three years. But Hachey is not concerned. “We are just coming out of a deep recession, and while airlines are buying they are buying for now. It is not a value proposition. It has more to do with time,” he said.

Hachey noted that Bombardier is talking to 60 or so customers, and that “five to six are very advanced.”

But sales are not Hachey’s primary concern. “My focus is to keep the program on time. That will distinguish us,” he added.

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