Bombardier Aerospace has unveiled not just the first but also the second CSeries flight-test aircraft, at a ceremony and briefing on March 7 at its Mirabel site near Montreal.
Both aircraft, which are of the Bombardier CS100 version, are 95 per cent complete and require only installation of minor systems, after which they will enter final function testing before making their first flights.
The first flight of the first Bombardier CS100 flight-test vehicle (FTV1, in Bombardier parlance) will then take place before the end of June. However, Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, has not confirmed if the first CSeries flight will take place before the Paris Air Show, which is due to begin on June 17.
Bombardier is now officially claiming firm orders for 180 CSeries jets. This number includes 32 Bombardier CS300 aircraft ordered by Russian leasing company Ilyushin Finance Company (IFC) on February 20, but IFC’s order still requires approval from its shareholders.
Total Bombardier CSeries commitments have climbed to 382, according to Arcamone, who during his presentation let slip the number 193 when talking about firm CSeries orders.
Bombardier has not confirmed yet if the 193 number is an accurate, newly updated figure. Nor has it confirmed the customer’s names for the potential extra 13 aircraft in the firm orderbook.
In other news arising from the unveiling ceremony, Rob Dewar, vice president CSeries for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, has revealed that in adding a second set of two over-wing exits to allow the cabin capacity of the Bombardier CS300 to be increased to 160 passengers, the manufacturer also increased the length of the CS300’s fuselage slightly.
The “small” fuselage stretch now makes the baseline Bombardier CS300 a 135-seat aircraft with seats at 32-inch pitch, according to Arcamone. The baseline CS100 remains a 110-seat aircraft. The 160-seat version of the CS300 will feature slimline seats pitched at 28 inches, a tight configuration usually employed by low-cost carriers and charter airlines.
Arcamone says that, since the CSeries is a brand-new aircraft rather than a re-engined one (the 737 MAX, A320neo, and Embraer’s second-generation E-Jets family will all be re-engined versions of existing aircraft), the CS300 with 160 seats will offer the same seat-mile cost as either Airbus’ or Boeing’s jets when fitted with 180 seats.
As of yet Bombardier has not revealed how long the fuselage stretch is, but Dewar confirms that implementing the modifications necessary to offer a 160-seat CS300 represented one of the reasons that the first flight of the CSeries slipped by six months to the end of June. Other reasons included some supplier and systems integration issues.
The Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president also revealed that, despite its public posture saying the CSeries was aimed purely at the 100-to-149-seat market, “work started years ago” at Bombardier in analyzing and preparing for a 160-seat version of the CS300.
Bombardier started offering the 160-seat version to customers “several months” ago, says Arcamone, but he stresses that Bombardier’s main focus for the CSeries family remains the marketing and optimization of the family for the 100-to-149-seat market segment.
However, Arcamone says the ability to offer a 160-seat CS300 will increase the size of the potential market for the Bombardier CSeries family.
Arcamone confirms Bombardier intends to have the first CS100 enter service in mid-2014, but does not confirm with which customer the aircraft will enter service. The first customer to operate the CS100 wishes to remain unidentified “for competitive reasons”, Arcamone says.
Bombardier is aiming to have the first CS300 enter service by the end of 2014.
Asked if a 160-seat CS300 would have overhead-bin storage space for roll-on bags for all passengers, Dewar says the industry’s “normal configuration” is for overhead bin space to be capable of storing roll-ons for 90 per cent of passengers.
Dewar adds that, on the CSeries, with its 3-2, five-abreast economy seat-row configuration, the overhead bins on one side of the cabin are capable of storing 24-inch-high roll-ons; the bins on the other side of the cabin are capable of storing 22-inch-high roll-ons.
However, Dewar does not clarify whether the 90 per cent figure refers to the baseline, 135-seat CS300 or the 160-seat “Extra Capacity Seating” version, If the former case is true, then this implies that a CS300 with 160 passengers would only be able to store in its overhead bins roll-on bags for approximately 76 per cent of the passengers.