The Bombardier CSeries CS100 test aircraft on display at Dubai Airshow 2015 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
I was fortunate enough to attend the Dubai Airshow this year which was held at Al Maktoum International Airport from November 8th to 12th. As part of the various events and substantial flying program, I was invited along with my friend Bernie to attend a press conference and aircraft tour of the new Bombardier CSeries which was present on the static display.
The CSeries has been the center of much media hype and excitement even though it has not always been smooth sailing for the company. Despite the various challenges facing Bombardier at the present time, all the staff were incredibly positive and excited to showcase their aircraft on its first debut in the Middle East. Following a rather spirited press conference where many questions were posed by local media with regards to the regulatory and political complications of selling the aircraft to Middle Eastern Airlines, it was time for the AvGeek’s favorite moment: the aircraft tour!
The aircraft on display at Dubai is used by Bombardier as a test-bed – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
At the time of the aircraft’s debut at the Dubai Airshow, Bombardier was in the final stages of receiving certification from Transport Canada; as such the aircraft on display was a test model without an official certificate of airworthiness. In practice this means that there are a few extra placards on the aircraft and not all equipment is fully operational, however the interior and exterior are identical to what it will be once it enters full scale production post certification.
The CS100 during test flights – Photo: Bombardier
Bombardier’s in a bad way lately. Their stock has hit some heavy chop, recently dropping 32% in a three-day period. There’s a margin warning. The company is pricing in a “bankruptcy scenario”. On top of that, the stock fell 11% after they announced the removal of their troubled CEO.
The company is ridiculously leveraged. The cost of a credit default swap on Bombardier has risen 500 basis points. There are even serious questions regarding the company’s liquidity.
The Learjet 85 – Photo: Bombardier
This whole mess started when the company announced that it was “pausing” its advanced, composite, Learjet 85 for an indefinite period of time due to lack of demand. Now, canceling a business jet should not result in massive investor panic and questions over the viability of a commercial program. The problem is, Bombardier finances a lot of its projects off of the revenue generated by its business jet division and debt. The CRJ and Q400 program, along with trains, are relatively low margin.
There’s a reason investors are starting to, in the words of one firm “[give] up hope.”
Bombardier is suspending its shareholder dividends and working on raising an additional $2.1 billion in capital.
The thing is, in the paraphrased words of Richard Aboulafia at the Teal Group, these moves display a startling amount of intelligence and transparency. The question is, is it too late for Bombardier?
Bombardier CSeries FTV1 touches down on Rwy 06 at YMX after a successful first flight. Photo: Bombardier Aero
Today, on a brisk Quebec fall morning, Bombardier’s CSeries Flight Test Vehicle 1 (FTV1) took off for the first time at Mirabel Airport (YMX). I, along with
hundreds of three thousand Bombardier employees watched the takeoff at just before 10AM ET, and then we waited for FTV1 to return at 12:25 PM. Stands had been set up along the apron, with a somewhat distant view of the runway. Of course, there were airline VIPs watching, including executives from the airlines that have ordered the 177 CSeries planes on the books, and from airlines that Bombardier is trying to convince to order the CSeries.
FTV1’s first flight was 2 1/2 hours long, and was described as an “extremely, extremely successful test flight”, by Bombardier CSeries VP Robert Dewar. FTV1 Chief Test Pilot Chuck Ellis said “How did it fly? Like the predictions, like the sim(ulator).”
Bombardier CSeries FTV1 on the ramp at Mirabel Airport (YMX) Photo: Bombardier Aero
UPDATE: September 15th, 7:30 PM ET
Bombardier has just confirmed that the first flight of CSeries Flight Test Vehicle 1 (FTV1) will happen tomorrow morning, Monday, September 16th. Winds are expected to be light and the sky mostly clear. Remember to follow me @airchive – I’ll be live-tweeting the event starting at 8:00 AM ET. Bombardier has set up a webcast of the first flight HERE, with pre-flight activities starting at 9:30 AM ET.
PREVIOUS UPDATE: September 14th
Late on Friday, Bombardier announced that the first flight of CSeries Flight Test Vehicle 1 (FTV1) is expected to take place this Monday, September 16th. Of course, the test flight team will be looking for optimal weather and aircraft readiness before making the decision to fly. The timing for the flight is expected to be set sometime on Sunday.
I’ll be at Mirabel on Monday to cover this exciting event for our friends at Airchive.com and I’ll be live tweeting on @airchive, so follow along there!