Indications are mounting that service entry of Bombardier’s CSeries could be pushed back into late 2014 or even early 2015 due to a laggardly testing schedule.
The oft-delayed programme is still nowhere near as tardy as the 787, which begun revenue operations almost three years late, but its problems are nonetheless more serious.
After racking up only 177 firm orders for the CSeries so far, Bombardier said yesterday that its chief salesman for commercial aircraft, Chet Fuller, had stepped down.
He is to be replaced by Raymond Jones, who has done wonders selling Bombardier’s business jets, though a new approach will be needed in the commercial market for airline operators who have completely different priorities to wealthy businessmen splashing out on a new toy.
Unfortunately, those toys have been selling better than a new passenger jet designed to address what Bombardier believes to be a huge gap in the market, for super-efficient 110-160-seat aircraft.
Fuller’s defenders argue that he has been hamstrung by ongoing delays to the CSeries programme; these saw its first flight pushed backed almost nine months to September 2013 and meant that he could only market a paper aeroplane to potential operators.
Yet that ignores the fact that other all-new aircraft, notably the 787 and A350, have shifted hundreds of units from the drawing board.
Of course, those aircraft operate in well-established capacity brackets, whereas the CSeries is exploring relatively new territory in between regional jets and the smallest Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies.
In some ways this makes it similar to the A380, which has also sold slowly.
Yet there is little evidence that the CSeries is ploughing fertile ground. The smallest of the A320 family, the A318, has never been popular, and airlines ordering the forthcoming 737MAX and A320neo families are tending to plump for either mid-size or large models – the 737-8MAX, 737-9MAX, A320neo and A321neo.
In contrast, Embraer’s E190/195 family, a more traditional regional jet with just over 100 seats, has already racked up about 700 orders, demonstrating that bigger isn’t always better.
New salesman Jones will be resting his hopes on the CSeries and its geared turbofan exhibiting jaw-dropping fuel burn advantages. Otherwise the aircraft could find itself bogged down in no-man’s land.