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Bombardier CSeries jet officially six months late

Confirmed delays to the CSeries jet underline just how late all new airliner projects have become

A recent rendition of the CSeries 100, not in flight over Canada

The only surprise in Bombardier this week announcing the CSeries regional jet project was running late was how late the announcement was in coming out.

It was painfully obvious that the guidance from the company was worthless for a very long time, right up to its insistence even last month that the prototype CSeries 100 would fly by the end of the year.

The jet is still in chunks in its Quebec factory.

Which is frustrating. Both the nominal 100 seat sized CS 100 and the lengthened CS 300, with up to 149 seats, are on their specifications, aircraft that could serve very useful roles for Australian operators.

The official line is now that the first flight will occur around the end of June 2013, with entry into service ‘about’ a year later.  That implies that if everything goes completely to plan, the CS 300, which is supposed to follow as closely as a year later, would not make it into service until mid 2015.

Such a timetable has many doubters.  It’s not just a Bombardier thing. Almost every pending airliner project of note is either running late, or is in limbo, awaiting official approval by boards.

This is the current state of play.

The Dreamliner 787-9, the higher capacity model that is promised to fly with full payloads both ways between Sydney and Los Angeles non-stop, just like the 787-8 is supposed to, is now due to fly in the second quarter of next year and enter service for launch customer Air New Zealand in the second half of 2014.

When airlines talk in quarters they are cutting themselves a big dollop of ‘slack’ which their customers sometimes show signs of finding unacceptable.  What Boeing is saying, this close to first flight, is that it will happen sometime between 1 April and 30 June next year, and go into service between 1 July and 31 December the following year.

If they are really, truly, that much in doubt about where the program is, then it is in deep schtuk.

Mitsubishi's MRJ project, future uncertain

However the trouble for airline makers in general is not with their design and engineering teams not knowing what-the-hell is going on, but those who write the slippery words found in press releases being incapable of or unwilling to tell the truth.

The Airbus A350 is now confidently said by Airbus to be ready to fly by the end of the second half of next year, which is another way of saying it is very late. It should be noted that one of its early customers Cathay Pacific, has been reportedly told not to expect their order to start flying passengers until early in 2015.

You would have to hold serious doubts that AirAsia X will fly A350-900s in 2015, or that rival Scoot will fly 787-9s in the same year.  In both cases 2016 looks a much safer prediction. The A350-900 is another high tech airliner that has to be able to perform full load flights SYD-LAX and vice versa, as claimed at regular intervals in recent years, or more likely, given who has ordered them, non-stop between Australian cities and Dubai.

Proposed airliners that are much anticipated but for which there really is no concise guidance, or even formal starts for their development and delivery, are the 787-10, but there is an expectation of around 2018 or 2019 for revenue service, and the next and stretched version of the A380 by around 2020, noting that the increased range/payload 575 tonnes version of the big Airbus is now in production for deliveries starting next year.

There is no formal revised or concise guidance for the Mitsubishi MRJ project, which to the casual observer, looks like an Embraer E-jet, and there is similarly no definitive word from the Brazil jet maker as to how or if it will update its top range of jets beyond saying it is considering exploiting new engine technology.

(It had to do something, or pass into obsolescence.)

China’s COMAC c919, a single aisle jet project similar to the mid range of the A320 or 737 families,  remains imprecisely defined in terms of performance and deliveries. Which may be only partly explained by having been nominated by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, as a possible alternative to buying jets off Airbus or Boeing, who like the writer, show signs of thinking he has gone mad anyhow.

China's COMAC c919 jet, as recently conceptualized

The one project that does appear to be on time, and to even flirt with being a few months early, is the Airbus NEO or new engine option program, with first deliveries of the Pratt and Whitney geared turbofan engined version due for delivery from the fourth quarter of 2015.

The Boeing response, the 737 MAX series, which has been ordered by Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines subsidiary SilkAir, is due to enter service for earlier order placers in the second half of 2017, although US analysts seem to be being briefed that this could be rather late in that period, and that 2018 is when the action will get into full swing.

There is not as yet board approval for a go ahead for the 787-10 nor for the more ambitious and much anticipated 777-X program, but if normally well connected analysts in the US are the gold standard for well informed hints, these versions of the 777 family might not enter service until late 2019 or 2020.

Boeing is said to be waiting to see what the A350 can really do. So are we all!

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  • 1
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted November 10, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Are the Russians running late as well? Or did they dodge the problem by not announcing a schedule?

  • 2
    comet
    Posted November 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    What’s to stop RyanAir tooling up with Comac C919s?

    Apart from the fact that the aircraft in the photo (above) has Comet-like square windows, the C919 might be a good aircraft. It shares cockpit commonality with the Bombardier C-Series.

  • 3
    Geoff
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    It is regrettable how powerful the spin doctors have become, and worse how they are given free reign to virtually make company’s policies on the run.

  • 4
    LongTimeObserver
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    At least many of the late programs have a huge overhang of orders. Not so the C-Series, whose economic order book is delayed by years longer than first flight.

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