Expectations are high that Bombardier will breath new life into its stalled CSeries program at the Farnborough Air Show. But based on what we are hearing, BBD may fall well short of expectations.

Aerospace analysts believe that BBD will announce and options from China Development Bank for 35 CSeries and Qatar will place an order for between 15-25 airplanes, with each adding options. But based on information, as of today, neither order will be ready for the air show.

If this is the case, the let-down of expectations will be huge–and another perceived blow to the struggling program, and perceived reinforcement of the image that the CSeries is the wrong airplane in the wrong market size.

There are just 90 orders and 90 options from three customers: Lufthansa, the USA’s Airways Holdings and a small European lessor, LCI.

China Development Bank signed an MOU to provide nearly $4bn in financing for the CSeries, the Q400 and the CRJ (the latter a puzzle, since this is clearly an aircraft approaching the end of its life). In the Chinese way of doing things, this portends an order from China.

But on the visit last month by China’s president to BBD, we understand no order was signed for the CSeries. It is also typically Chinese that State visits are accompanied by orders and ceremonial signings.

BBD’s hopes in the US for a major order from United were thrown into question with the agreement to merge with Continental. UAL was evaluating an order for 50+50. It was questionable whether this order would occur in 2010 or slip to 2011–if it were to come at all–but with the proposal, this activity is on hold. Continental’s management will be the surviving one, and they’ve been solidly Boeing customers for nearly two decades.

American Airlines is reliably said to be weighing an order for 20 CSeries with a decision in the fourth quarter.

But the expectations for BBD at Farnborough have already been set high–and BBD is apparently set to fall far short.

The blogger “Crankyflier,” a marvelously-named and insightful author, has a good column from several weeks ago on the CSeries. Mary Kirby of Runway Girl and Flight International has this long piece on the CSeries.

What does the absence of orders at Farnborough mean for the CSeries? Not much, necessarily. Although certainly the absence will be a PR blow based on the expectations, Boeing for years made a point of saying it skipped announcing orders at air shows if the customers didn’t want to do so. This is, of course, somewhat different than not having orders to announce–which was why Boeing began downplaying air shows in the first place a decade ago.

But it is worth remembering that Boeing’s sales of the 737 and 757 were very slow off the mark and later became good sellers.

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