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Bombardier C Series eyes Europe-US after London City boost

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The European routes operated by Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss arm should demonstrate the plane’s abilities to potential buyers and help advance the possibility of services to the US that would establish its long-haul credentials, C Series program head Rob Dewar said in a telephone interview. SOURCE : REUTERS

[LONDON] 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 help advance the possibility of services to the US that would establish its long-haul credentials, C Series program head Rob Dewar said in a telephone interview.

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, Mr Dewar said. The aircraft has already 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," Mr 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." While British Airways already has a narrow-body operation from London City to New York, its single-class Airbus SE A318 planes are limited to 32 flat-bed seats and must refuel in Ireland in order to make the journey because of weight restrictions when departing the UK airport. The C Series could perform the same trip non-stop with 12 more passengers, or link City to other locations at a similar distance, such as Toronto, with a similar load, Mr Dewar said.

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Swiss, which flew the smaller CS100 version of the plane into City for the first time on Wednesday, plans to serve the London terminal from Zurich and Geneva, replacing BAE Systems Plc Avro RJ100 regional jets that it has used their for 25 years. London City Chief Commercial Officer Richard Hill said the Bombardier plane also opens up the possibility of direct services to Russia and the Middle East.

Aspen, Tibet At standard-runway airports, the C Series could perform trans-Atlantic trips in a multiclass configuration at full capacity. From locations such as London Gatwick or Lisbon, the bigger CS300 variant would have a range of 3,300 nautical miles, bringing much of the eastern seaboard of the US into play.

The plane is best-suited to linking secondary terminals, Mr Dewar said, swapping one flight for as many as three via major hubs. 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 at London City, which Mr 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 UK 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.

Mr 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 due 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, Mr Dewar said.

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