Bombardier has halted deliveries of the CSeries aircraft for two months to refine the production system and upgrade the aircraft configuration while the supply of Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines remains a bottleneck, chief executive Alain Bellemare tells Flightglobal.
The last CSeries aircraft delivered – a CS300 – was delivered to Air Baltic on 31 December. A month ago, Bombardier officials said the delivery of the sixth CS100 – and eighth CSeries overall – to Swiss would occur “shortly”, but the aircraft remains parked outside the final assembly line in Mirabel, Canada.
The ongoing delivery hiatus increases pressure on Bombardier to meet a commitment to ramp CSeries deliveries this year to 30-35 aircraft, a 428-500% jump compared to the seven deliveries made last year.
On the sidelines of the US Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit on 2 March, Bellemare explained the delivery stoppage was planned.
“We’re taking advantage of this lateness in engines to take the opportunity to upgrade the aircraft, upgrade the assembly line and get ready for more volume,” Bellemare says.
Bombardier originally planned to deliver 15 CSeries aircraft in 2016, but in September reduced the forecast to seven while blaming a shortage of engine deliveries from P&W.
The ramp-up of the P&W’s geared turbofan engine family has been slowed by a critical shortage of several parts, including the unique hybrid metallic fan blades. In comments made last year, United Technologies chief executive Greg Hayes said the fan blades have proved harder to make than P&W expected.
But the opening of new fan blade factories in Japan and Michigan is expected to eliminate the parts shortage, allowing P&W to meet its goal of delivering 350-400 engines in 2017. Hayes has explained that about 50 of those engines will be needed as customer spares. Bombardier will need at least 60-70 engines to meet its goal of delivering 30-35 aircraft. That leaves 230-290 engines left over for P&W’s other geared turbofan customers, which includes the Airbus A320neo now in service and the Embraer E-190-E2 that remains in testing.
While Bombardier waits for more engines, the company is improving aircraft on the assembly line to avoid taking delivered units out of service as improved components become available. Bellemare says.
“Instead of producing aircraft that would actually need a lot of retrofit in the field, we could manage that because, like we said, the engine delivery schedule was back-end loaded,” Bellemare says.
Bellemare described the aircraft and production system improvements as minor tweaks that fall short of a block-point upgrade, which is scheduled to come later.