Commercial aircraft: Bombardier lights a fuse

It flies. Now, will it sell?

SINCE the late 1990s airlines wanting to buy short-to-medium-haul “narrowbody” planes with 100-200 seats have had little choice (apart from some creaky old Russian aircraft) but to pick either Boeing’s 737 or Airbus’s A320. As orders for such planes have boomed in recent years, aircraft-makers in China, Russia and Canada have been working on new contenders to break this American-European duopoly. On September 16th Canada’s Bombardier got there first, launching the maiden flight of its CSeries plane (pictured).Bombardier is duelling the duopolists because the prospects for the planes it already makes—“regional” jets of under 100 seats and corporate jets—are not as juicy as those for mainstream commercial airliners. Global passenger traffic is set to grow by 5% a year for the next two decades, reckons Boeing, and airlines are seeking ones that seat 100-200 to fill much of the new demand. In regional jets Bombardier has enjoyed a near-duopoly of its own, with Embraer of Brazil. But Japanese, Russian and Chinese rivals are moving in to the market just as operators of regional jets are going for bigger planes….

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