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Regional focus

With the former C Series now in the firm hands of Airbus, Alan Dron asks Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President, Fred Cromer, what lies ahead

The agreement reached between European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Canada’s Bombardier to acquire a controlling stake in the latter’s C Series regional jet programme and the subsequent plans by Boeing and Embraer to link up for its commercial business have generated the largest realignment in the global aerospace business for at least a decade.

The deal, by which Airbus took a 50.01% stake in the aircraft for which Bombardier had fought so hard to bring to market, was finally concluded in July, when the C Series CS100 and CS300 formally became the Airbus A220-100 and A220-300 respectively.

Bombardier retains a minority 33.5% stake in the aircraft and will continue to manufacture its wings at its Belfast factory, while the fuselage will also still originate from a combination of its own aerostructures organisation and China, but overall control of the programme now resides in Toulouse.

So, where does the Canadian company go from here? President Fred Cromer believes the company continues to have a promising future.

It is no secret that Bombardier struggled to win orders for the C Series for lengthy periods during its development and it was only in 2017 that ‘marquee names’ Air Canada and Delta Air Lines were added to the customer list.

It is also no secret that Airbus, publicly nonchalant about the C Series – now-retired Chief Salesman John Leahy rather condescendingly described it as ‘a nice little aircraft’ – fought ferociously to prevent the lower end of its single-aisle market being eroded by the Canadian newcomer.

The result was that the number of orders for the C Series stalled for many months, with Bombardier’s costs mounting to the point where the Quebec state government had to step in with a $1 billion cash infusion for a 49.5% stake in the programme to keep the show on the road.

Cromer today takes a philosophical view: “We felt that the partnership with Airbus was the option that would really allow the programme to achieve its full potential,” he says. Putting Airbus’s considerable marketing muscle behind the 100-to 150-seater aircraft means that the manufacturer is “in a position to change the way people think about the C Series. Industry is now talking very differently about the programme [although] it had success even before Airbus came along.

“If you look at the leadership team announced for the joint venture going forward, it includes many of the Bombardier leadership team. The joint venture will benefit from the continuity standpoint from the programme group that developed and implemented [it] and put the technology to the market.”

Bombardier will continue to be involved in the development of the aircraft in future years, says Cromer. >>


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