Estimated reading time 11 minutes, 22 seconds.
As it launched into the blue, cloud-streaked sky over Farnborough International Airport in mid-July, the aircraft formerly known as Bombardier’s C Series CS300 seemed to blend in as much as it stood out.
It was just days removed from a major rebrand, after Airbus’ controlling stake in the C Series took effect on July 1, and the aircraft arrived at Farnborough in a simple, white-and-blue livery and with a new name painted on its side: Airbus A220-300.
Appearances aside, the A220-300’s arrival at the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA), which ran July 16 to 22, may have been a turning point in the program.
After a chaotic year, punctuated with the threat of massive tariffs from the United States that threatened the future of the C Series and prompted the deal with Airbus, the program is showing signs of life.
Airbus announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at Farnborough to provide 60 A220-300 aircraft to a new start-up airline backed by JetBlue founder David Neeleman.
That deal followed on the heels of a similar agreement with JetBlue itself for 60 A220-300s, announced just prior to Farnborough, which bills itself as the world’s largest airshow.
“After years of U.S. airline consolidation, the conditions are improving for a new generation of U.S. airline to emerge, focused on passenger service and satisfaction,” said Neeleman in a news release.
“The A220 will enable us to serve thinner routes in comfort without compromising cost, especially on longer-range missions.”
Deliveries to the start-up airline are set to begin in 2021, and JetBlue expects its first deliveries in 2020.
“This U.S. airline startup’s decision for the A220 as the platform on which to launch their new business model is a testament to the passenger appeal and operating economics of this outstanding aircraft,” said Eric Schulz, chief commercial officer for Airbus.
This was not the tsunami of new orders Airbus may have hoped for, but it was certainly a wave worth catching, and perhaps a sign of things to come.
While the A220 orders were a major story for Canadian aerospace–Bombardier still has a 34 per cent stake in the program, and Investissement Quebec owns about 16 per cent–they were symptoms of general optimism at Farnborough.
It was a remarkably successful show for many of the major OEMs, with more than 1,400 orders and commitments announced.
Boeing says it won a total of 673 aircraft orders valued at nearly US$100 billion.
Airbus confirmed agreements for 431 new commercial aircraft, although it did not disclose a corresponding value for those orders.
Embraer announced orders and commitments for 300 aircraft, valued at US$15.3 billion, while Bombardier added just one firm order for four CRJ900 aircraft to Uganda National Airlines.
“Boeing led the way at Farnborough,” said Dennis Muilenburg, the company’s chairman, president and CEO.
“We will continue to win in the marketplace thanks to our talented team.”
Bombardier used Farnborough to refocus on its business jet and regional airline offerings, making several announcements that may boost sales down the line.
The company revealed its Challenger 350 business jet has achieved Transport Canada steep approach certification, allowing operators to land at the steep 5.5 degree approach angle, and on the short runway at London City Airport.
Both European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) steep approach certifications are expected this year.
Bombardier also unveiled its new Atmosphere cabin design for CRJ Series aircraft, in partnership with launch operator Delta Air Lines and supplier Zodiac Aerospace.
The company bills Atmosphere as a philosophy as well as a design, aimed at delivering a higher level of passenger comfort, convenience and accessibility while ensuring maximum branding opportunities for airlines.
Its features include spacious overhead bins, the largest windows in its class, Internet connectivity, and an accessible lavatory for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). The CRJ Series is the first and only regional aircraft to offer a PRM lavatory option, according to Bombardier.
At Farnborough, the company also showcased its Q400 turboprop, in Ethiopian Airlines livery, and the Global 6000 business jet.
Bombardier announced during the show that TAG Aviation Europe, a leading private and business aviation service provider, is the first to offer the long range Global 5000 aircraft with Premier cabin, for charter to European customers.
Canada’s federal government had a considerable presence at Farnborough, sending cabinet ministers Navdeep Bains, Marc Garneau and Carla Qualtrough to spread the word about Canada’s world-class aerospace industry.
Bains, who is minister of innovation, science and economic development, led the government’s charm offensive and highlighted the country’s globally-integrated, export-oriented and innovation-driven approach.
The three ministers accompanied a delegation of 420 representatives from more than 130 Canadian aerospace companies to the airshow.
Bains and his colleagues held meetings with leaders of aerospace companies based in Canada and around the world, according to a news release.
“I am proud to have had the opportunity to share with the world why Canada is a destination of choice for companies and investors in the aerospace industry,” said Bains.
“Canada is a world leader in aerospace innovation, and we want to keep that enviable position.”
Montreal-based CAE used Farnborough to launch the CAE 700MR Series flight training device (FTD), a next-generation platform designed specifically for military helicopter flight and mission training.
The CAE 700MR Series FTD is based on the CAE 3000MR Series full-mission helicopter simulator, but in a fixed-base platform with a dynamic seat for vibration and motion cueing.
Key features include an extreme field-of-view visual system with a CAE Medallion-6000XR image generator to provide an immersive training experience; computer-generated forces software for a realistic tactical synthetic environment; and support for military-specific training scenarios, including ship deck landings, night vision goggle training and confined area landing training.
“We listened to our customers to design and develop a high-end flight training device that addresses the highest priorities for military helicopter mission training,” said Gene Colabatistto, CAE’s group president, Defence and Security.
CAE also introduced its new Women in Flight scholarship program at Farnborough with the goal of helping women advance in the aviation industry.
Through the program, CAE intends to provide financial support to aspiring female pilots by awarding up to five full scholarships to one of the cadet pilot training programs in its global training network.
CAE also plans to give selected candidates access to their first job through the company’s global partners. Another objective is to elevate selected candidates to become aviation role models and inspire even more women to become pilots.
Bell announced at Farnborough it will collaborate with Subaru Corporation on a commercial enhancement of the Bell 412 EPI helicopter–type certified in July as the Subaru Bell 412EPX–in support of the Japan UH-X program.
Subaru was awarded the contract to replace Japan Ground Self Defence Force’s (JGSDF’s) current fleet of UH-1J aircraft with a militarized derivative of the Subaru Bell 412 EPX.
The 412 EPX will benefit from a more robust main rotor gearbox dry run capability, increased internal maximum gross weight to 12,200 pounds (5,533 kilograms) and mast torque output of more than 11 per cent at speeds below 60 knots.
A commercial prototype has undergone testing at Bell’s facility in Mirabel, Que., and it received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification on July 5, 2018.
Bell also announced the Bell 429 global fleet has exceeded 330,000 hours of operation.
There are 325 Bell 429 aircraft operating in countries around the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) announced at Farnborough it has signed an agreement with Hawker Pacific that will see the two companies work together to enhance the delivery of customer services and solutions.
The agreement spans most P&WC engine models and diagnostics and prognostics products across all segments, including business aviation, general aviation, offshore, utility, regional aviation and defence and security.
Under the agreement, Hawker Pacific will provide an array of maintenance, repair, engineering and customer support services to P&WC engine customers, as well as mobile repair technician services.
The two companies will collaborate to deliver and install P&WC’s diagnostic, prognostics and engine health management solutions, including its FAST prognostics solution, under its Digital Engine Services portfolio.
P&WC also announced that China Southern Airlines has selected the APS3200 auxiliary power unit (APU) for the airline’s order of 104 purchased and leased aircraft from the Airbus A320 family.
The airline has signed a long-term, comprehensive support agreement with P&WC to cover APS3200 maintenance. With this contract award, China Southern will operate more than 250 Airbus A320 family aircraft with the APS3200.
MDA announced during the show it has acquired Neptec Design Group Ltd., a leading electro-optical and electro-mechanical systems and high-performance intelligent light detection and ranging (LiDAR) company, for $42 million.
The transaction is comprised of about $8 million in cash, with the balance in Maxar common shares, according to a news release.
With Neptec, MDA intends to deliver end-to-end robotic systems and an expanded set of solutions, positioning the company to capture growth in U.S., Canadian and international global space exploration markets.
Heroux-Devtek announced it has been awarded a five-year contract from Lockheed Martin to manufacture landing gear for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
Under the agreement, Heroux-Devtek will manufacture and assemble landing gear for Lockheed Martin’s global production of C-130J aircraft and provide spare parts over a five-year period beginning in January 2020.
Boeing also selected Heroux-Devtek to manufacture main landing gear and side braces for F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft, with first deliveries in the third quarter of 2020.
SkyX, a drone manufacturer based in Markham, Ont., launched its latest product at Farnborough 2018: the SkyTwo unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
SkyTwo is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drone that flies beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), with a planned range of 170 kilometres on a single charge.
It would then recharge for about 2.5 hours on a remote xStation before continuing a mission.
SkyTwo is in the research and development phase, with test flights expected to begin in September. SkyX expects the product to be market-ready in 2019.
While Embraer made a bigger splash than Bombardier and the A220 family combined at Farnborough, all could benefit from a commercial airline market expected to swell in size over the next 20 years.
Embraer is projecting demand for 10,550 new aircraft with up to 150 seats worldwide over the next two decades, depending on the economic health of the airline industry.
If the forecast comes close to reality, the A220 family will likely battle head-to-head with Embraer’s E-Jets E2 family, with Boeing as a likely partner for the Brazilian OEM.
“This commitment confirms the important role the A220 aircraft now occupies in our Airbus single-aisle portfolio,” said Eric Schulz, chief operating officer for Airbus, as he announced the company’s 60-aircraft deal with the U.S. startup.
It was an understated way of saying this flashy, intentionally disruptive Canadian creation is now a relatively discreet member of the much larger Airbus family.
It seems to blend in as much as it stands out, but it shows no signs of fading away .