Bombardier's CSeries jet nears approval for London City airport

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc BBDb.TO said its CSeries will soon become the largest commercial aircraft capable of landing at London City Airport, a feat the Canadian planemaker expects will whet buyer interest at a time of sluggish market demand for new jets.

A Bombardier C Series aircraft is displayed at the Singapore Airshow at Changi Exhibition Center February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Bombardier, which this week completed a series of dedicated flight trials, expects to receive “steep approach” certification in the second quarter so that airlines can land the 110-seat CS100 variant at the urban airport, which has the challenge of a shorter runway, spokesman Bryan Tucker said.

The certification would allow CSeries customer Swiss Airlines LHAG.DE to operate at London City, which is a four-mile drive from the capital's main financial district.

“We expect this to generate interest from other operators as the aircraft demonstrates its capabilities,” Tucker said.

The arrival of the lightweight, carbon-composite CSeries at London City could boost Bombardier in the run-up to the industry’s showcase Paris Air Show in June.

It comes as planemakers are bracing for another bout of softer sales in 2017 after a prolonged order boom peaked in 2014. Planemakers are having to battle harder for business amid a glut of new planes and concerns over the economy.

“We’ve been binging on orders,” said Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, who expects muted demand in 2017.

Because of its lighter weight than most aircraft of its size, the Canadian jet can fly direct to New York from London City when carrying about 40 passengers in exclusively business-class seating.

UK startup Odyssey Airlines and Geneva-based private charter operator PrivatAir have both announced plans to operate the plane out of the airport, with Odyssey planning services to North America and the Middle East.

A number of operators have tried and failed to make money on banker-friendly London City-New York services, which until now have had to stop in Ireland for fuel on the westbound journey due to prevailing headwinds.

Although it has won accolades for fuel savings and a smooth entry into service with Swiss in 2016, the CSeries has not received a substantial order since the sale of 75 CS100 jets to Delta Air Lines nearly a year ago.

An earlier order for 45 130-seat CS300 versions to Air Canada AC.TO was completed in June.

After relaunching the programme with steep discounts to boost sales following production delays, Bombardier is coming under pressure to secure profitable new sales in the run up to the Paris show.

“We are comfortable where we are at this point,” Tucker said of CSeries’ existing sales.

As of December 2016, the CSeries had recorded 360 firm orders and most capacity is sold out through 2020, he said.

Editing by Tim Hepher and David Clarke