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Bombardier pitches C Series for trans-Atlantic flights after London City airport boost

A Bombardier CS300 C Series aircraft lands after a flying display on day two of the 51st International Paris Air Show in Paris, France, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Bombardier Inc. is pitching its C Series jetliner for trans-Atlantic operations as the Canadian planemaker pursues a new wave of orders, buoyed by the start of flights from London City airport.

The European routes operated by Deutsche Lufthansa AG's Swiss arm should demonstrate the plane's abilities to potential buyers and open up the possibility of service to the U.S. that would establish its long-haul credentials, C Series program head Rob Dewar said in a telephone interview.

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The narrow-body jet offers double the range, 25 per cent more capacity and a quieter noise footprint than other planes at London City, where flights are limited by a short runway and stringent environmental curbs, Dewar said. The aircraft has performed a test flight from the airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International hub in a 44-seat, all-business-class layout.

"From City you could do many destinations in eastern North America," Dewar said. "There are many customers now – more than a handful – looking at the capability of the C Series for long-range routes, some of them trans-Atlantic."

British Airways already has a narrow-body operation from London City to New York, though its single-class Airbus SE A318 planes are limited to 32 flat-bed seats and must refuel in Ireland to make the trip because of weight restrictions when departing the U.K. airport.

From standard-runway airports, the C Series could perform trans-Atlantic trips in a multiclass configuration with a full load and would be best-suited to linking secondary terminals, swapping one flight for as many as many as three via the major hubs, Dewar said. He added that there's also some interest in low-cost, single-class operations, with carriers asking Bombardier to study potential routes.

"It's something the aircraft can do, though it's not the focus of our core market," he said.

The start of flights this week at London City, which Dewar called the "most challenging" of urban airports, should also encourage carriers to explore the case for using the C Series at other constrained terminals. Those range from Colorado ski resort Aspen, which could be served direct from New York with a full load, to Lhasa in the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet, where so-called hot-and-high conditions limit aircraft types.

The appeal of the C Series – which comes in two sizes in a range of 100 to 150 seats –– may be enhanced by further flights from London City to be offered by U.K. startup Odyssey Airlines and Geneva-based charter specialist PrivatAir, which have ordered 10 and five aircraft respectively. The biggest model can be outfitted with as many as 160 seats in a so-called high-density configuration.

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Dewar reiterated that Bombardier expects to announce more C Series deals this year and that talks continue with existing customers and potential new clients. The manufacturer is in discussions with Qatar Airways after the Gulf carrier said in June that the aircraft might be suited to a 100-plane Indian operation it has won permission to establish.

The 30 or so C Series deliveries planned for this year will be loaded to the "back end" following issues with the supply of engines from United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney unit. The problem is not as acute as that concerning the engine variant that Pratt supplies for Airbus's A320neo family, Dewar said.

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