By snapping up a majority stake in the Bombardier C Series, Airbus adds a complementary, clean-sheet design to its narrowbody lineup that fits snugly beneath the popular A320 and A321 models. It also has the potential to add something else: an entire fleet of data-rich, non-Airbus aircraft to its budding aftermarket analytics business.
While streamlining the supply chain and bolstering production by opening a U.S. assembly line were the primary focuses of executives in announcing the deal, make no mistake: support is part of the agreement.
"Airbus will contribute significant value to the procurement, sales, marketing, fleet maintenance and customer support synergies to the C Series," Bombardier CFO John Di Bert told analysts Monday night, not long after the deal was announced.
For Bombardier, it means leveraging Airbus's vast global network that is already supporting 9,700 aircraft—a network that has the full confidence of hundreds of operators. For Airbus, it paves the way to connect the most advanced narrowbody in terms of data-production with its recently launched Skywise open data platform.
Airbus is well on its way to making Skywise, and analytics programs running on it, pay off for existing customers, with EasyJet and Emirates Airline among the early adopters. Plans include expanding the benefits to Airbus helicopters, military aircraft, and—eventually—other OEMs' products.
Boeing and its Boeing Global Services (BGS) arm has generated the most chatter among non-engine OEMs diving into the aftermarket pool. Boeing's initial focus is on Boeing operators, and the company does not plan a Skywise-like open data platform. But the U.S. OEM is on the record as saying it will eventually look to expand its digital toolbox—recently combined and branded under the AnalytX banner— to support more than its own products.
Airbus, looking to pull even following U.S. counterpart's BGS move, has launched Skywise and unveiled—and expanded—a new MRO alliance. Giving C Series customers an in-house option for exchanging data and generating actionable analytics would put Airbus a step ahead in the OEMs' race to broaden aftermarket support beyond their own product lines.