Bombardier II: Going Up Against Boeing, Airbus?

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Even as the rumors of a Learjet company sale swirled around Bombardier, the company may also be getting into the "real" airliner market. Already manufacturing one of the world's most popular regional jets, Bombardier officials say a new plane designed to compete in the airliner market for 100- to 150-seat jets may soon take shape. Dubbed the CSeries -- for Competitive, Continental, Connector -- the newest ride in the company's stable would target those air carriers currently operating aging DC9s, Fokker 100s, Boeing 737 Classics, BAe-146s and MD80s that are beginning to need replacement. Also targeted, of course, are similarly sized offerings from Boeing and Airbus, the 717 and the A318/A319, respectively. Also involved in that low-end market is the 98-seat Embraer 190, which has not yet entered service. "The market for the 100- to 150-passenger commercial aircraft segment is estimated at $250 billion U.S., or roughly 6,000 aircraft over the next 20 years," said Gary Scott, president of the Bombardier New Commercial Aircraft Program. Perhaps even more interesting, said some observers, is the potential for a "CSeries" Bombardier to be placed into traditional business and corporate aviation use. "There is a huge potential customer base in the lower end of this segment, especially among existing main line and the fast-growing low-cost carriers. We are very excited about the prospects of developing a new family of aircraft that is optimized to meet their needs. And Iím pleased to say our customers are telling us the same thing," Scott said. The company will be conducting a yearlong feasibility study, it said earlier this week in a press release. The intent will be to develop a family of aircraft meeting the market's needs while operating at costs 15 percent lower than current-production competitors. The CSeries aircraft family will be designed in two basic five-seat-abreast versions. One version will be designed to carry 110 to 115 passengers, while a larger version will seat 130 to 135 passengers. Each of the two variants can be configured for either short-haul travel with a 1,800-nautical-mile range or for transcontinental flights of up to 3,200 nautical miles.