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February 20, 2024
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Take a look at this interesting story from Aviation Week.  Despite the expected sources sowing doubts about the CS, there is, in fact, rising interest. Why do we say rising? Because we are hearing of three potential orders coming – one of which is from China.  The article above mentions interest from a different China source than we have heard about – now there are four potential customers.

The concerns expressed by various parties (OEMs specifically) about the viability of the CS have clearly caused the trade press to use a more questioning tone when reporting on the program.  The article states the potential Chinese customer’s fears of delivery delays.  Of course the customer is correct to have such concerns.

But note that this concern is based on experience with a program unrelated to Bombardier.  What we are seeing is that concerns about new airplane programs recently and currently underway are impacting CS sales campaigns.  Clearly the thinking is that if Airbus, Boeing and SuperJet have had challenges meeting schedules, how could Bombardier be immune?

On its face a reasonable question.  But it would be equally reasonable to assume that Bombardier has learned lessons – from internal experience as well as the other OEMs.  Let’s review what Bombardier is doing to mitigate against risk.

  • The CS program is taking 63 months for product development.  This compares to Boeing’s planned 48 months for the 787.
  • They created the CIASTA program to test every part going in to the CS.
  • The new wing is being tested in Belfast and passed the 150% stress test without breaking.
  • The first fuselage arrived from China last year and is well into its lifecycle testing.

In other words, Bombardier is undertaking a multistage process of risk mitigation.  The lessons learned  internally come from years of working with a global supply chain plus the need to give themselves more development time based on experience from the Global Express aircraft.

Is this a guarantee of on-time delivery? Of course not, but it seems reasonable that the company is doing whatever it takes to reduce risk of late deliveries.  Because new programs are risky the CS EIS might slip – maybe months, but years late?  That does not seem likely.

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3 thoughts on “China and CSeries

  1. Good level-headed piece. Bombardier has never attempted an aircraft this large. They are by definition a new entrant into the market. They appear to be making steady progress.

  2. You don’t mention the PW1000 GTF on which the CSeries is heavily dependent. That’s in early testing, and any glitch there will delay delivery regardless of how proven the airframe is. Witness RR’s recent problems with Trent engines for the 787 (a blow up on a test stand and now a surge on the first 787), and their failure to produce a 787 engine that meets fuel burn specs (when will a fully tested Pkage B engine be available for commercial use?). No doubt, anxiety is ballooning at Boeing and among its 787/RR customers that the plane will be delayed significantly and will not meet specs. And don’t forget ice-up problems on 777 Trents resulting in the BA crash at Heathrow. All this is severely tarnishing RR’s reputation. PW has had its own problems with commercial wide body engines and now has only a small share of the mkt it once dominated. I recall there was some talk that Bomb got no orders at Farnborough because customers were wary of the GTF.

    Also, on-time delivery does not necessarily mean big sales. Boeing and Airbus seem to be preemptively saturating the mkt with 737NGs and A320 family (look how very, very well each did at Farnborough, and wonder what their pricing was). They seem to be saying to their current customers, “Buy from us and not from Bomb and we will make it worth your while buy lowering our prices.” Luckily for Bomb, the mkt is so big for 100-220 seaters that neither Boeing nor Airbus can fill it.

    All that said, Bomb’s CSeries production plans seem to be based on a rational, hard headed evaluation of risk, the exact opposite of Boeing’s production plans for the 787 and Airbus’ for the A380. Boeing’s goofy out sourcing plan mirrored what was happening elsewhere in US society, which was a general refusal to honestly face up to real risk and plan accordingly. Instead, starting generally in 1994 when the Republicans got control of Congress, risk was treated as almost non-existent. Thus, there was no need for regulate the new dangerous financial instruments that the investment community were hawking because there was no risk sophisticated investors would buy products that were doomed to fail. Alan Greenspan actually said this in Congressional testimony, when the opposite was clearly more likely, that greed would trump reason any day of the week.

    Or, there was no need for home buyers to put any money down because US residential real estate values would always go up so no mortgage loan could ever fail. Or, there was no need to regulate Credit Default Swaps as insurance because there was no risk that the issuers of the Swaps would ever have to pay creditors holding the insured debt because the value of the collateral securing that debt would always go up. Or, there was no need to plan nationally for appropriate retirement and health care, and devote parts of our incomes to that planning, because it would somehow just materialize when needed. The examples abound.

    Boeng’s out-sourcing plan ignored the obvious risk that their suppliers would not deliver properly made parts, and assumed that they could not only deliver them, but also design them, without Boeing supervison, even tho the CF tech was new and untried. This infantile approach has almost destroyed the Company, and may yet do it if RR can’t deliver those engines.

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