CSeries : Bombardier won’t be able to deliver on their promises
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2:30am - September 19, 2017 - Quebec, Canada
Bombardier are about to increase both the production rate and the delivery rate of the C Series in the coming weeks.
I have recently discussed the space problem they have in Mirabel, in a series of three articles. The main purpose of this exercise was to give us an idea how many aircraft are presently in the final stages of completion before delivery.
In Mirabel the final assembly line is split in two segments that are located in two separate facilities. Therefore it is important to maintain an equilibrium in the output between the main final assembly line (FAL 1) and the secondary assembly line (FAL 2).
Obviously if production rates were higher at FAL 1 than at FAL 2 it would not take long before the newly assembled aircraft would start piling up. And that's exactly what's happening right now in Mirabel.
My understanding is that the equilibrium will eventually be restored after Bombardier will have raised the delivery rate to a minimum of three aircraft per month later this Fall.
Until recently production in FAL 1 could not be increased significantly because of the abnormally high number of aircraft in FAL 2. This was due to a number of reasons, most of them being related to supplier issues.
Photo: Normand Hamel
As I write this there is a total of 14 aircraft in the pipeline downstream of FAL 1, and only a few of them have been completed.
At the start of the year Bombardier were announcing 30 to 35 deliveries for the entire year. But when the situation became less favourable they simply maintained that at least 30 aircraft would be delivered before the end of the year. And more recently they again attempted to lower our expectations and were now saying that around 30 aircraft would be delivered in 2017.
I always had doubts about these claims and I didn't think they would hold the test of time. But since we were approaching the end of the year I expected Bombardier to take the opportunity offered by the big media event that was held in Mirabel last week to lower our expectations yet again.
That's why I was completely taken aback when the new director of the C Series programme, Istifan Ghanem, said last week that they now had all the C Series parts they needed and confirmed that they expected to deliver 30 C Series this year.
I am sorry but I don't think this is still possible, and that's why I believe Bombardier won't be able to deliver on their promises.
And if you want me to be more specific, I am ready to stick my neck and say that a maximum of 22 aircraft will be delivered this year.
How did I arrive at this number you ask? It's quite simple, I relied on what the customers had to say about their own fleet. And here is what they have been telling us lately.
1- Swiss said they would take delivery of another six aircraft before the end of the year.
That was before they had MSN 55012 in their fleet and it included an additional four CS300, plus the two CS100 that have been on hold in Mirabel for about nine months now.
So before the end of the year Swiss is expected to receive five more aircraft, possibly in the following order: 55013, 55014, 55015, 50018 and 50019. Note that the first three are CS300, while the last two are CS100.
2- As for airBaltic they said they would take delivery of one more aircraft this year, which is a CS300 of course.
This is the aircraft that was sent to Avianor (MSN 55016). It is not expected to be back at Bombardier until the end of September though. So it will likely be delivered to airBaltic sometime in October, which should give them plenty of time to train additional crews before the Christmas rush.
3- Korean Air are expected to take delivery of five aircraft this year. And the first one should make its first flight soon, for MSN 55018 has already been fuelled up and the engines are running.
MSN 55017, which would normally come off the assembly line first, will not be delivered until next November. I am not sure why exactly, but I think it is related to a production issue with one of the major structural components, like a section of the fuselage or the empennage.
After completion all KAL aircraft will have to be equipped with a satellite IFE system that will allow them to offer extended Internet services to their passengers. I think 55018 will be the first C Series in service to fly with this system, which remains an option.
As Sylvain Faust has reported the work will be carried out by an outside vendor that is located at Dorval airport.
According to one delivery schedule I have seen on the Web, KAL should take two aircraft in October, two more in November, and a last one in December. For a total of five CS300 going to South Korea before the end of the year. Unless there is a war, of course.
Photo: CYUL Plane Spotter Twitter @yulplanespotter
Apparently quite a few people are still convinced that a minimum of 30 C Series will be delivered this year. This shows how powerful corporate propaganda can be.
But in my view the reality is very different than what Bombardier want us to believe. For I make a difference between claims made in front of the press, à la Pierre Beaudoin in 2011-2012 announcing first flight before the end of the year, and firm commitments made to existing customers.
It is important to understand that without firm commitments on the part of the aircraft manufacturer it would be very difficult for the operators to prepare in advance for new aircraft deliveries.
We have to keep in mind that Bombardier has delivered the C Series at a rate of only two aircraft per month since March of this year, with no delivery at all in January and February. But they want us to believe that they can suddenly jump to five aircraft per month because they now have all the parts they need. I wish it was that easy, but it's not.
When FAL 2 are done with an aircraft it is handed over to Preflight where it has to undergo a string of tests, both on the ground and in the air. And after that the operator has to do an elaborate acceptance check before taking the aircraft home.
All this takes time and space and Bombardier is quickly running out of both.
Photo: SWISS Instagram: marihoe
According to my own estimates Bombardier should deliver a total of 22 aircraft in 2017, to three different customers:
Already delivered: three CS100 and three CS300
To be delivered: three CS300 and two CS100
Total for 2017: 11 aircraft
Already delivered: five CS300
To be delivered: one CS300
Total for 2017: 6 aircraft
Already delivered: zero
To be delivered: five CS300
Total for 2017: 5 aircraft
Grand total for 2017: 22 aircraft
If Bombardier were to prove me wrong next January, believe me nothing would please me more. I am actually afraid to be right on this one because I know that the more aircraft they will deliver the more revenues they will have.
But let's face it, not a single C Series has been delivered in the past three weeks and we are already in the second half of September. But if everything goes well two CS300 can possibly be delivered to Swiss before the end of the month.
However if they were to deliver only two aircraft in September this would mean that in order to remain faithful to their promises to deliver 30 aircraft this year they would have only three months to deliver the remaining 17 aircraft.
That's an average of more than five aircraft per month, and perhaps as many as two aircraft per week for the last few weeks of the year.
Photo: Normand Hamel
As I write this they would still have to deliver 19 aircraft according to the official script, but a more realistic 11 aircraft according to what I believe were confidential commitments made to the three customers that are scheduled to receive some aircraft this year: Swiss, airBaltic and Korean Air.
Of course I could be wrong about this. But what I like about my scenario is that it represents a more realistic delivery rate increase from two to three aircraft per month. And this bodes well for next year.
For we can already anticipate an average delivery rate between three and four aircraft per month for next year, for a total of perhaps 42 aircraft. That's my estimate for 2018.
If you have any information in regard to the C Series programme, feel free to contact me, confidentially, at the following address: email@example.com
** Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of fliegerfaust.com or its other collaborators **