Bombardier Inc.’s bold $3.4-billion bid to vault into the top tier of airplane makers will go ahead without Gary Scott, who will retire on Oct. 1 as president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and overlord of the C Series airplane program.
Mr. Scott, 60, is retiring about a year before the scheduled first flight of the C Series, a narrow-bodied plane that will seat between 100 and 149 passengers and take on giants Airbus SAS and Boeing Co., which now dominate the lucrative single-aisle airplane segment.
“The C Series is tracking well,” Mr. Scott said in a statement Wednesday, “and with the program at this advanced stage, I feel very comfortable leaving it in the capable hands of my colleagues so I can devote more time to my family.” Sources briefed by Bombardier said a close family member is ill.
His departure comes amid a renewal of optimism about the success of the C Series, which went more than a year without orders from airlines before Bombardier announced several new customers at the Paris Air Show in June and a letter of intent from a Russian leasing company last week.
Mr. Scott has been in charge of the program as Bombardier gears up operations in Montreal, China, Belfast, Northern Ireland and elsewhere to produce the plane. He was hired in 2004 after a short stint at aircraft simulator maker CAE Inc. and a much longer career at Boeing that included extensive experience developing the Boeing 737, whose market the C Series is targeting.
Airlines have ordered 133 C Series planes. The Russian leasing company signed a letter of intent for 10 of the planes and is expected to make the orders firm before the end of the year.
That’s on track with management expectations and on pace with where sales of a new aircraft typically are one year before first flight and two years before delivery to customers.
The critical issue for the medium term is making sure that schedule is met, said industry analyst Scott Hamilton, managing director of aviation consulting firm Leeham Co.
“Execution, of course, is the challenge as we've seen at Boeing and Airbus, and execution is always about more than one individual, whether Gary is there or not,” Mr. Hamilton said.
Both Airbus and Boeing have experienced massive delays in developing their new wide-bodied airplanes, the A380 and 787 Dreamliner, respectively.
But Bombardier, as a supplier of parts to both companies, has learned from that experience, Mr. Hamilton said.
“Bombardier learned a great deal from its Global Express program, which is where it cut its teeth – and had many of the same problems on the global supply chain problem that Boeing had with the 787,” he noted.
Although Bombardier has won some orders recently, winning another one or two before the end of the year would be another sign that the program has caught on with airlines, analysts said yesterday.
Bombardier has said its strategy is to try to win multiple small orders from several customers. The orders and letters of intent announced in Paris and since then have fit that strategy.
Guy Hachey, president and chief operating officer of Bombardier Aerospace, will take over Mr. Scott’s duties until a replacement is named, Bombardier said in the statement.