Taking Flight: CS100 and 787-9

The past few days have had big news for aviation buffs.

Yesterday, Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier had the first flight of its new CSeries CS100, a small passenger jet which holds room for 110 passengers. This marks the first time that the company, which mainly builds regional jets, has produced an aircraft that is capable of seating more than 100 passengers. The launch customer for the CS100 will be Swiss European Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Swiss International Air Lines (formerly Swissair), which in turn is own by Lufthansa. The CS100 is expected to enter passenger service in 2014.

Bombardier is also producing a larger version called the CS300, which can hold up to 160 passengers. This would put it in direct competition with larger aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing, who have held a duopoly in their market for years. The first flight for that version is expect in six months and it is on track to enter service at the end of next year. It remains to be seen as to the effect of this new entrant to the midsize airplane market and so far the CSeries has a combined total of 177 orders.

Earlier today Boeing saw the first flight of the 787-9, the larger version of its 787 Dreamliner that first flew more than four years ago. Compared to its slight smaller cousin, the 787-9 can fit about 40 additional passengers and has an added range of 300 nautical miles (about 345 standard miles). The launch customer will be Air New Zealand, which will take delivery of the 787-9 sometime next year.

The 787 program has been dogged by problems and delays since it was started. The original roll-out of the aircraft occurred on July 8th, 2007 (7/8/07), but production delays dragged on and the plane didn’t fly until two years later. Further problems identified during testing caused the first delivery to be pushed back by another two years, meaning that launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) didn’t get their plane until October 2011. And earlier this year battery problems briefly caused the grounding of all 787s worldwide until the problem could be fixed. But despite the numerous issues with the aircraft, the 787 has sold reasonably well with 936 orders and 83 deliveries as of September 2013.

Both the 787 and the CSeries represent the cutting edge of aircraft design and as an aviation geek myself, I cannot wait to get a chance to ride them. Some see air travel as a bore, a necessary evil of getting from one end of the country (or the world) to the other. However I find it hard to be blase about flying tens of thousands of feet in the sky in a metallic (or composite) tube going 85% the speed of sound. But then again, that’s just me.

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