Delta liveried CSeries 100, due in service within 2 years.
Delta liveried CSeries 100, flying its routes from 2018.

Until recently it looked all but dead in the longer term, but an order by US carrier Delta has put the Canadian CSeries regional jets back on the short list of possible new airliner designs that could replace aging fleets of Boeing 717s and Fokker F100s in the next decade.

Delta will buy at least 75 of the initial version, the nominally 110 seat Bombardier CSeries 100, with options for a further 50, to renew the smaller capacity jets used to serve largely regional US routes.

This version has the range and capacity to replace dozens of Boeing 717s and even older Fokker F100s used for Qantas and Virgin Australia branded services to smaller capital city routes like those from Canberra or for fly-in fly-out resource industry contracts, sometimes in conjunction with operators such as Alliance Airlines or Cobham.

With mining in recession and signs of weaker domestic demand in general, the major Australian carriers aren’t even thinking aloud about such an investment in the near future.

But in the next decade, in better economic circumstances, the rising costs and inefficiencies of flying and maintaining those older designs from the early 90s might mean different calculations have to be made.

The Delta order could easily drive similar regional jet deals from other US carriers, and thus ensure that the CSeries is around when carriers in the Asia-Pacific will need jets with those capabilities.

The first CSeries 100 is expected in service with Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss this northern summer. Its natural competitor is the E2 series of jets from Embraer, which are due in service from late next year, and which use a similar geared turbo-fan engine from Pratt & Whitney that is in limited service in only a small number of Airbus A320 NEO jets at present because it has failed to perform as well as advertised in early use.

Air Canada is likely to be the first major user of the larger CSeries 300 from sometime in 2018 should it firm up its intentions to buy at least 45 of them following negotiations with both Bombardier the Quebec based maker of the jet, and the provincial and federal governments.

The CSeries 300 is of potential interest to Australian carriers if they wanted something the size of an Airbus A319 or Boeing 737-700 at around 150 seats in a single class cabin.

But at the moment this seems unlikely, as Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger have all settled on single aisle designs offering at least 180 seats in such a configuration.

The X-factor for the new tech lighter weight single aisle jets being offered by Bombardier and Embraer is lower carbon emissions. While any new airliner from any maker in the next decade will emit less fossil sourced carbon than even the most efficient jets on offer today, the Canadian and Brazilian designs for regional jets are optimised for smaller thinner passenger routes that neither Airbus nor Boeing seem really interested in.

The CSeries is designed to rake in the dollars for its owners from carbon trading schemes or tax offsets in a sector where the big American and European makers have left the playground.

Ten years from now, doing everything possible to reduce the release of fossil sourced carbon will not be controversial, but an urgent necessity.

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