MONTREAL — Bombardier has marked today a major milestone in the CSeries family aircraft program, with the handover to launch operator SWISS of the first of 30 airliners on order.

The historic delivery took place in the premises of the manufacturer in Montreal, Canada, where both SWISS and Bombardier employees gathered with government representatives, suppliers and media to celebrate the event.

“SWISS is proud to be the first airline to take title of the CSeries (…) The aircraft performed exceptionally well during its acceptance flight, as expected,” said Thomas Klühr, Chief Executive Officer, SWISS.

Last March, SWISS and Bombardier carried out a 3-week long route-proving campaign in Europe, which included flights to several major cities. The campaign provided data on the behavior and performance of the new jetliner under a typical airline schedule to and from different airports. The first SWISS CS100 flight is scheduled to enter service on July 16, 2016 from Zurich to Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

“The CSeries fleet will allow us to perfectly tailor our capacity to demand on various European routes, while providing an excellent travel experience for our passengers” Klühr said.

A “significant moment” for Bombardier

During the handover ceremony, Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft described the milestone as a “significant moment” for the airframer. Cromer also highlighted the dedication of the employees of both SWISS and Bombardier “to designing, building, marketing and defining the flight network for the CSeries aircraft as the first right-sized aircraft in the 100- to 150-seat market segment in nearly 30 years.”

The program, plagued by ever-increasing cost-overruns and a schedule running two years behind the intended date of Entry Into Service, has finally seen the light this year, first with two landmark orders from Air Canada for 75 CS300s, and Delta Air Lines for 75 CS100s, and then, with the establishment of a partnership with the Government of Quebec, which will assure the required funding to continue with the program.

“A new aircraft program like the CSeries aircraft comes around once in a lifetime and it’s a proud achievement that belongs to many,” said Rob Dewar, Vice President, CSeries Aircraft Program, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

Flying the CSeries with a wow Factor

After the handover ceremony, media invitees were invited to fly the CS100, in one of the first passenger flights of the airliner. The first passenger flight ever took place earlier this month from Dublin to Zurich, just after IATA’s General Annual Meeting.

Boarding Pass for the Media Flight. (Credits: Author)

Today’s flight will be on Flight Test Vehicle 5 (FTV-5 • C-GWXZ • MSN 50005), which is configured with 120 seats in a single class layout—SWISS has opted to configure its CS100s with 125 seats at 30″ pitch.—The flight will take us from Montreal’s Mirabel Airport northbound to Mont Tremblant and back.

Our aircraft waiting to be boarded. (Credits: Author)

As we boarded, the excitement was in the air. From the outside, the elegant lines of the aircraft contrast with the size of Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1500G engines. According to the manufacturer, the powerplant contributes to the economic benefits of the aircraft, which delivers 20% fuel burn advantage over in-production aircraft.

Mission Accomplished! Fred Cromer (left) and Rob Dewar (right) posing in front of FTV-5 moments before boarding. (Credits: Author)
Once on board, the first impression that you get is the amplitude of the passenger cabin, with tall ceilings and a wide aisle, larger seats, overhead bins and windows, which create a roomy, wide body ambience.
The single-class cabin has a 3+2 layout, seating 118 passengers. (Credits: Author)
The single-class cabin has a 3+2 layout, seating 120 passengers. (Credits: Author)

As we readied our departure, the cabin crew welcomed us aboard and gave us some details of the flight: due to weather conditions, our cruise altitude was going to be 16,000 feet to Mont Tremblant, and 10,000 feet in our return to Montreal. The First Officer Daniel Dionne closed the speech with his wishes, “to enjoy the best aircraft of its category: the CSeries.”

During our taxi roll to the runway, it was evident the quietness of the engines when compared to other narrowbodies in its category. Once on runway 29 at 14:55 local, the captain applied full thrust power in a static takeoff routine and we were airborne in the blink of an eye after a whisper-quiet roll. With a weight of 117,000 pounds (53,000 kg), the CSeries just needed 115 knots and 22 seconds for takeoff.

Airborne! The noise of the engines was silenced by the applause of those onboard (Credits: Author)

Approximately five minutes later we reached our —low— cruising altitude, and just after the seat belt sign was turned off, everybody rushed to the aisle for pictures and interviews. Throughout the flight, the aisle became an improvised stage in which Fred Cromer and Rob Dewar talked about the technical specifications of the CSeries, highlighting some key characteristics such as the width of the cabin and seats, the fuel consumption, and its short-takeoff and long-range capabilities.

Media and Bombardier Staff sprang to action just after the seat belt sign was turned off. (Credits: Author)

“The CSeries burns less the 2 liters of fuel per passenger per mile which is less than a car. We could fly to Zurich today with the amount of fuel we have onboard. Who wants to go?” Dewar boasted.

Rob Dewar delivering his in-flight speech. (Credits: Author)

The cabin is very quiet—with 85 db back in the cabin, lower than the noise of a food processor—and feels like flying in a small 787 Dreamliner or A350 XWB, with high ceilings and a bright cabin, partly due to the window size which happens to be 50% larger than those of an Airbus A320.

Some of the windows in FTV-5 had a superimposed oval pattern, showing the actual size of the windows of other aircraft in the same category. (Credits: Author)

“Every time people come onboard this aircraft, there is a wow factor” Cromer said.

When referring to the outcome of the program, Dewar described it as rewarding. “[It’s been] almost eight years since we launched in the 2008 Paris Air Show to deliver the aircraft. Since we rescheduled out timelines two years ago, we have met each milestone, including delivery.”

Also, when referring to the Delta Air Lines order, Dewar assured that this was a major success for the program. “Delta has told us if you can deliver an aircraft with promised specs and volume, they would buy it. And they are a market leader which many look to.”

When questioned about the current Airbus-Boeing duopoly and how Bombardier could play a role in cracking it, Dewar said that such duopoly is “overblown, as they [Boeing and Airbus] are focused on a non-well served market in which we [Bombardier] are serving. The market was under estimated.”

While overflying Mont Tremblant we experienced some moderate turbulence that caught people off guard. The opportunity was proper to see how the aircraft’s gust suppression technology could minimize the chop in flight… and it surely did!

The stylish and modern cockpit boasts 15.” screens powered by Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion Avionics Suite. (Credits: Author)

After a quick fly-by Bombardier factory in Mirabel, the aircraft graciously touched down at 15:40 local, in the midst of cheers and the applause of those on board.

A Phenomenal Aircraft Delivered

After deplaning, Rob Dewar took the opportunity to make a Q&A session next to FTV-5. There, he talked about the momentum of the program, which according to him “has turned a corner, and as people see true value, that bodes well for us.”

Rob Dewar during the Q&A session next to FTV-5. (Credits: Author)
Rob Dewar during the Q&A session next to FTV-5. (Credits: Author)

When questioned about the P&W engine issues that have affected the delivery rate of the Airbus A320neo, Dewar emphasized that the CSeries powerplant variant “is performing consistent well relative to the rest of the industry, with no extended starting issues. Ours [CSeries] startup time is at 75 seconds in line with the industry, and the fuel burn is exceeding projections.”

Bombardier expects that the CSeries program becomes cash positive in 2020 on a come basis.

Not only the Avroliners… But the Airbus A319 too

In an exclusive interview to Airways, Peter Wojahn, Chief Technical Officer of SWISS, talked about the initial operation of the CSeries with the airline. During its first revenue operation set to start on Saturday, July 16 2016, the aircraft will serve four flights, while progressively increasing to six or seven legs (round trips) during the second week.

SWISS expects to take delivery of nine CSeries in 2016, so frequencies will be increased as the carrier receive more new aircraft. The first CS300s will arrive in 2017.

When talking about fleet changes, while the CSeries is intended to replace the aging Avroliner fleet of the carrier, it will also replace the Airbus A319 in some of the routes. To date 34 pilots have taken the training course and their licenses have been homologated. Wojahn assured that SWISS will save 20 percent in fuel over the Avroliners for fuel, and more for maintenance.

Wojahn also shared some details on the cabin configuration and the business class product onboard the CSeries. While all the cabin will have a 3+2 seating, there will be a flexible divider which will be adjusted depending on the route, with one of the seats blocked (the middle seat in the three-seat side and the adjacent seat on the 2-seat side.)

About the delivery flight to take place tomorrow and arrival to Zurich on July 1, the aircraft will have four pilots which will be in charge of taking the aircraft to its new home in Zurich. Interestingly, Wojahn highlighted that the CSeries has enough range to make a non-stop delivery flight from Mirabel to Zurich, but due to Extended Operations (ETOPS) constraints, it will have a technical stopover for refueling.

Don’t miss the second part of this extensive coverage report, with the details of the handover ceremony that took place after the delivery flight.

Bombardier and SWISS: First CSeries Handover Ceremony, Live from Montréal