Bombardier jet sales can take off, says expert
One of the world's leading experts on aircraft design has said he's confident that Bombardier's CSeries jet will prove successful for the embattled manufacturer.
Professor Brian Falzon is head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen's University Belfast and is internationally renowned for his work on composite aerostructures, the basis of the CSeries design.
Bombardier has been struggling to attract orders for its new jet which is already three years delayed and at least £1.2bn over budget. The wings for the CSeries are being built at the company's Belfast plant, with hopes for up to 800 jobs when the aircraft goes into full production.
Last week, the Canadian-owned company confirmed that it had held talks with its rival Airbus about the possibility of selling a stake in the CSeries. The talks ended without agreement.
Over the weekend, the company said that it was in advanced discussions with North American airlines about orders for the CSeries.
The prospective customers were not named, but a Bombardier spokeswoman said: "We are in some pretty advanced discussions.
"Our senior leaders are engaged." Reuters has reported that United Airlines is considering buying either Bombardier's CSeries jet or Embraer's rival E-Jet. It's understood that United first opened discussions with the manufacturers more than a year ago but is now close to making a decision.
Prof Falzon, who holds the Royal Academy of Engineering/Bombardier Chair in Aerospace Composites at Queen's, said that the CSeries is a very strong contender in the market for 100-150 seater jets.
"The CSeries is optimised for its class and all indications are that it will actually deliver better performance than the original specifications presented to customers," he said.
"It is a very quiet aircraft with a low environmental footprint. Because this aircraft was designed to serve a specific market sector, the efficiencies are unlikely to be met by other narrow-body derivatives, in service or in development, which are optimised for a higher seat capacity."
Prof Falzon warned against too much negativity over Bombardier's failure to land orders for the CSeries - the company left the Paris Air Show in June with no sales for the new jet.
"A 'clean sheet' aircraft will always present new challenges as we saw with other recent development programmes from Airbus and Boeing. Indeed, if one looks back at the history of aircraft development, one would be hard pressed to find an example of a new aircraft programme that did not have to manage some level of new technical issues," he said.
"Once a new aircraft has been granted a type certificate and enters service, any development difficulties are soon forgotten. While the number of orders for the CSeries is below the target at entry into service, it is hoped more customers will order the aircraft once it is in service and operators start reporting back on its expected superior performance."
Before he came to Queen's, Prof Falzon held the inaugural chair in aerospace engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and holds visiting professorships at both Imperial College London and Monash. He has been involved in many industry collaborations and has received research funding from the EADS/Airbus, BAE Systems, Bombardier and Boeing.