Bombardier’s C Series jet nears approval for London City airport
Parts of aircraft wing made in Canadian company’s Belfast plant
UK start-up Odyssey Airlines and Geneva-based private charter operator PrivatAir have both announced plans to operate the plane out of the airport. Photograph: iStock
Bombardier said its C Series aircraft, parts of which are made in Belfast, will soon become the largest commercial aircraft capable of landing at London City Airport, a feat the Canadian planemaker expects will whet buyer interest at a time of sluggish market demand for new jets.
Bombardier, which this week completed a series of dedicated flight trials, expects to receive “steep approach” certification in the second quarter so that airlines can land the 110-seat CS 100 variant at the urban airport, which has the challenge of a shorter runway, spokesman Bryan Tucker said.
The certification would allow C Series customer Swiss Airlines to operate at London City, which is a four-mile drive from the capital’s main financial district.
“We expect this to generate interest from other operators as the aircraft demonstrates its capabilities,” Mr Tucker said.
The arrival of the lightweight, carbon-composite C Series at London City could boost Bombardier in the run-up to the industry’s showcase Paris Air Show in June.
It comes as planemakers are bracing for another bout of softer sales in 2017 after a prolonged order boom peaked in 2014. Planemakers are having to battle harder for business amid a glut of new planes and concerns over the economy.
Bombardier has implemented substantial cost-cutting measures, including the loss of 1,000 workers at its Belfast plant, where some 4,000 remain. The plant makes the primary structural components of the C Series aircraft composite wing.
“We’ve been binging on orders,” said Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, who expects muted demand in 2017.
Because of its lighter weight than most aircraft of its size, the Canadian jet can fly direct to New York from London City when carrying about 40 passengers in exclusively business-class seating.
UK start-up Odyssey Airlines and Geneva-based private charter operator PrivatAir have both announced plans to operate the plane out of the airport, with Odyssey planning services to North America and the Middle East.
A number of operators have tried and failed to make money on banker-friendly London City-New York services, which until now have had to stop in Ireland for fuel on the westbound journey due to prevailing headwinds.
Although it has won accolades for fuel savings and a smooth entry into service with Swiss in 2016, the C Series has not received a substantial order since the sale of 75 CS100 jets to Delta Air Lines nearly a year ago.
An earlier order for 45 130-seat CS 300300 versions to Air Canada was completed in June.
After relaunching the programme with steep discounts to boost sales following production delays, Bombardier is coming under pressure to secure profitable new sales in the run up to the Paris show.
“We are comfortable where we are at this point,” Mr Tucker said of C Series’ existing sales.
As of December 2016, the C Series had recorded 360 firm orders and most capacity is sold out through 2020, he said.