Four months ago, celebrations over first flight of its flagship CSeries aircraft were tempered by the realisation that entry into service would probably slip to early 2015, more than a year later than programme managers had originally conceived.
Yesterday (January 16), though, Bombardier admitted that its CS100 would only begin commercial service in the second half of 2015, while the larger CS300 would not join airline fleets until 2016.
Bombardier shares promptly plummeted eight per cent, despite an announcement on the same day of a desperately-needed new customer in Saudi start-up SaudiGulf Airlines, which has placed 16 firm orders for CS300s.
The CSeries is still not as delayed as the A380 or 787, but Airbus and Boeing investors at least had some idea of what was holding up those programmes – wiring and fastener issues, respectively.
All Bombardier has said is that “the flight test phase will require more time than originally anticipated to ensure, amongst other things, that the aircraft has the overall system maturity to support a successful entry-into-service”, which could mean anything.
Judged alone, such hazy explanations shouldn’t be problematic, but in Bombardier’s case they fuel nervousness among investors already spooked by anaemic demand for the CSeries, whose order-count now stands at 198.
Bombardier has targeted 300 sales by the CSeries’ entry into service, though at least it now has more time to achieve that!
"Management hasn't hit any of their major important milestones, so they have a credibility issue right now," Scott Rattee of Stonecap Securities told Reuters.
Some analysts believe the latest delay will add another $1bn to programme costs, up from either the $3.4bn that Bombardier maintains is the CSeries budget, or the $3.9bn many believe it has risen to already.
The latest extension also means that the CSeries will now enter service around the same time as planned for the A320neo, the larger Airbus narrowbody that Bombardier’s 110-160-seat aircraft wants to replace in airline’s hearts.
Some have claimed that the loss of its head-start would disadvantage the CSeries still further, although that is unlikely given that Airbus has long since filled its backlog for the first few years of A320neo production.
What is certain is that Bombardier can’t afford any more setbacks. “This is the last time we are delaying this aircraft,” a Bombardier spokesman told the Financial Post.
Let’s hope those words don’t come back to bite him.