MONTRÉAL — Following the CSeries CS100 media flight held yesterday to mark the first delivery to launch customer SWISS, Bombardier held the handover event at the company’s premises in which an incredibly charged and excited crowd gathered to celebrate the milestone.
Promptly after the Q&A session held next to Flight Test Vehicle Five (FTV-5), after our arrival from the media flight, we were ushered to a hangar nearby where a white CSeries plane served as canvas and the central piece of a light show that excited an uproar of wonder and applause among those presents at the event.
Personally, I have not seen such a turnout in a handover since the first delivery of the Boeing 787-8 to All Nippon Airways (ANA) in 2011.
The official ceremony was opened by Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, who assured that both the airframer and the airline are “ready for a successful entry into service.”
First revenue flight will take place next July 16, with an inaugural service from Zurich to Paris CDG.
A long journey comes to an end
“I am so proud SWISS is our launch customer. I can’t wait for them to take off,” Cromer said.
Rob Dewar, Vice President, CSeries Aircraft Program, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft publicly admitted that the CSeries has been his lifetime ambition.
“When you get to the end of a challenging long journey, it reminds you that people are unstoppable when they put their mind to something,” he said.
The program was plagued by increasing cost-overruns and a schedule running two years behind the intended date of Entry Into Service (EIS).
However, in 2016, and thanks to two landmark orders from Air Canada and Delta Air Lines, and to the establishment of a partnership with the Government of Quebec, the program saw the light at the end of a long tunnel.
Key players, satisfied
After the words from both Bombardier executives, Pratt and Whitney’s Rick Duerloo took the stage, thanking on behalf of 33,000 employees the dedication of Bombardier to the program.
The Connecticut-based company is the sole provider of the powerplant for the CSeries, the PW1550G PurePower engine. “We are beyond impressed with you [Bombardier],” he said.
Quebec’s Minister of Transport, Sustainable Mobility and Transport Electrification, Jacques Daoust, delivered a speech on behalf of the government, which now is part of the CSeries program after $1 billion investment through the CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP).
Daoust thanked SWISS for its commitment to the program during the difficulties experienced. “You [SWISS] started by being business partners, now you are friends with Quebec,” he remarked.
The commitment of SWISS to the program was also highlighted by Alain Bellemare, President and CEO of Bombardier. During his speech, Bellemare admitted that the continuity of the CSeries program was compromised.
“A year ago, when we faced tough times, we didn’t know if the program would be alive, but the reason why we are standing here today is because SWISS stood up for us in the good and the bad times,” Bellemare said.
A message to the competition
Bombardier’s CEO was also provocative against its competitors, which have dismissed the potential of the aircraft to crack the existing duopoly in the narrow body commercial aircraft market.
“We will compete with Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and anyone in the world. Our competitors say these things because they are scared.”
“The performance of the aircraft is exceptional. It’s going to do wonderful things in the marketplace. We are just starting. We will compete with Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and anyone in the world. Our competitors say these things because they are scared.”
SWISS: “A demanding customer”
Peter Wojahn, Chief Technical Officer of SWISS, took in the scene, admitting that the airline has been a demanding customer. “We know we’re not an easy partner but I am paid to make everyone do their job, but I hope they want to see us back.” he joked.
“In 2008, we decided to take a risk on something new, to open a new battlefield and add a new supplier,” Wojahn said. Currently, SWISS is embarked in a renovation of its short and long-haul fleet. Earlier this year, the carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER.
“We did not buy the CSeries to play with it. We bought it to make money with it,” Wojahn said.
“People with dedication bought us here. We stuck together through troubled waters. To the non believers, I say [to Bombardier], you delivered on time!” receiving a standing ovation just before a stunning sound and light show that closed the event.
Bombardier has secured 370 firm orders and 252 options and purchase rights for the CSeries. The first CS300 is expected to be delivered later this year to Air Baltic.
Stay tuned for more as SWISS flies its first CSeries to Zurich.