In a day of both good and bad news for the Bombardier CSeries aircraft program, Bombardier Aerospace has announced a sizable new firm order for CSeries jets from a new Saudi Arabian airline but at the same time has confirmed it has postponed the entry into service of its new commercial-jet family by at least seven or eight months.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Qahtani Aviation Company has signed a firm purchase agreement for 16 Bombardier CS300 jets and has taken options for an additional 10 CS300s.
The aircraft will be operated by SaudiGulf Airlines, a newly launched national carrier for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Al Qahtani Aviation Company and SaudiGulf Airlines are both owned by the Saudi Abdel Hadi Abdullah Al-Qahtani & Sons Group of Companies (Tariq Al-Qahtani & Bros.).
Based at King Fahd International Airport, in Dammam, SaudiGulf Airlines will operate domestic and international services from different airports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its international route network will focus on main capitals in the Middle East and Gulf Cooperation Council regions, as well as the Indian subcontinent.
Meanwhile, although Bombardier Aerospace says the CSeries program is making solid progress and that initial performance results are in line with the company’s expectations, the manufacturer says it has rescheduled the entry into service of the Bombardier CS100 (the first of two currently planned CSeries models) for the second half of 2015.
The CS300 will enter service approximately six months after the Bombardier CS100 ‒ that is, possibly as late as the second quarter of 2016.
Until now Bombardier had said the CS100 would enter service by the fourth quarter of 2014. All along the company indicated the CS300 would enter service about six months after the CS100, but its entry into service was expected to be by mid-2015.
Bombardier says its decision to postpone entry into service is based on a thorough review of the CSeries program after the first flight of the CS100 on September 16, 2013.
This review has shown that the CS100 flight-test phase will require more time than Bombardier originally anticipated. The delay is in order to ensure, amongst other things, that the aircraft has the overall system maturity to support a successful entry into service, according to Bombardier.
According to Bombardier, based on the list price of the CS300, Al Qahtani Aviation Company’s firm order for 16 CS300s is worth approximately US$1.21 billion. Should the customer exercise all 10 options, the list-price value of the contract would increase to US$1.99 billion.
“This is an exciting time for the aviation industry in the Arab states and neighbouring regions, particularly when you consider that more than 54 million passengers moved through Saudi Arabia’s 27 airports last year alone,“ says Sheikh Tariq Al Qahtani, chairman of SaudiGulf Airlines. “We are very excited about the CSeries aircraft’s suitability for this market and the long-term success it will bring to the region.”
Adds Al Qahtani: “With its clean-sheet design, modern technologies and competitive costs, the CSeries aircraft will give us the opportunity to introduce a new, quality, premium airline and an economically sustainable business model in Saudi Arabia, serving the domestic market, the Gulf and Middle East. SaudiGulf’s CSeries aircraft will offer wide and comfortable, leather seats, and in-flight entertainment in first-class, as well as economy-class seats.”
Speaking about Bombardier’s decision to delay the CS100’s entry into service by a period of at least seven or eight months, Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, says, “We are taking the required time to ensure a flawless entry-into-service. We are very pleased that no major design changes have been identified, this gives us confidence that we will meet our performance targets.”
Arcamone adds: “While the process has taken more time than we had expected, our suppliers are aligned with the program’s schedule and together, we will continue to work closely to move the program steadily forward. With the first flight of flight test vehicle 2 (FTV2) successfully completed on January 3, 2014, the CSeries aircraft program will continue to gain traction over the coming months.”
Including the SaudiGulf Airlines order announced on January 16, Bombardier has booked orders and commitments for 445 CSeries aircraft. These include firm orders for 198 CSeries airliners. Some 17 customers and lessees have now ordered or taken commitments on CSeries jets.