Even though Bombardier has announced poor financial results for 2015 which include $5.6 billion of write-downs and charges, most of the amount against its commercial aircraft manufacturing activities and the new C Series program in particular, the Canadian manufacturer has reported two important and positive items of commercial-aircraft news.
First is its announcement on the first day of the Singapore Airshow 2016, September 16, that by 2018 an increased-payload version of its Q400 turboprop regional airliner capable of carrying 90 passengers will be available for entry into service.
According to Bombardier Commercial Aircraft the increased-payload version of the Q400 will represent the world’s only commercial turboprop capable of carrying 90 passengers.
Second and potentially even more important is Bombardier’s September 16 announcement that Air Canada has signed a letter of intent (LOI) to order 45 Bombardier CS300s and option 30 more.
Bombardier values Air Canada’s potential 45-aircraft initial firm order at US$3.8 billion at current list price.
The LOI gives Air Canada the right to convert delivery positions for any of its ordered and optioned CS300s so they are produced as shorter, lower seat-capacity CS100s instead.
Once the order is finalized, Air Canada will induct the CS300s into its mainline fleet, according to Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive officer of Air Canada.
When Air Canada firms its LOI into a full purchase agreement, the deal will increase Bombardier’s firm orderbook for its C Series jet family to 278 aircraft.
The Air Canada LOI also means Bombardier has now won firm orders and other commitments for a total of 678 C Series, jets, though industry insiders do not not all of the firm orders and commitments as likely to be turned into aircraft which actually are produced.
(An example of one C Series firm order which is in considerable doubt is Bahrain-based Gulf Air’s order for 10 CS100s. The carrier said recently that after reconsidering its fleet plans it may have to cancel the order.)
However, Bombardier’s move to increase the seating capacity and payload of its Q400 turboprop regional airliner, 547 of which it has sold to date, should strengthen the popularity of the company’s most successful current-production commercial aircraft.
“As part of Bombardier’s ongoing commitment to the evolution of the Q400 aircraft program, we are thrilled to offer customers increased capacity on regional routes with high passenger demand and the growth potential to increase profitability,” said Fred Cromer, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
“We are witnessing growth in the number of passengers per departure in the turboprop market and Bombardier is responding with a 90-seat Q400 aircraft – a new segment solution ideally suited for current and future short-haul and high-demand markets,” said Patrick Baudis, vice president, marketing for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
“Once again, Bombardier’s innovation leads the pack – industry players have talked about developing a 90-seat turboprop, and today, only Bombardier has turned that vision into a reality,” added Baudis.
Bombardier said its focus on continuous improvement aimed at addressing traffic growth and its customers’ bottom lines has allowed the manufacturer to announce a 2,000lb increase in payload for the Q400 from 2018.
From 2018, also, Bombardier will be able to offer increases in the Q400’s A-Check and C-Check scheduled maintenance intervals from 600 and 6,000 flight hours respectively to 800 and 8,000 flight hours.
Bombardier estimates that the higher-maintenance interval, 90-seat Q400, which will offer 12 to 14 additional seats over the most common Q400 seating configurations, will deliver more than US$8 million per aircraft in extra revenue and operating value to customers ordering the aircraft.
Currently the highest number of passenger seats installed in any Q400 is 86, in the recently delivered Q400s operated by Thailand’s Nok Air.