Source: Bombardier Aerospace
Bombardier Aerospace has replaced its commercial aircraft sales chief, and moved its top business jet sales manager into the position. Effective immediately, Raymond Jones has been appointed as senior vice president of sales, marketing, and asset management for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. He had previously served as vice president of worldwide strategic accounts for Bombardier Business Aircraft.
Jones has replaced Chet Fuller as commercial aircraft sales chief. Fuller had been in the position since late 2010. He will remain at Bombardier only until the end of 2013, at which point he has decided to leave the company in order to pursue outside career opportunities.
As commercial aircraft sales head for Bombardier, Fuller was essentially the chief salesman for Bombardier's new CSeries family of 100-160 seat jetliners. CSeries sales have been sporadic at best, which has led to some industry and press speculation regarding the timing and circumstances of Fuller's departure from Bombardier. In all fairness, though, it must be stressed that Bombardier has given no official indication that the slow CSeries sales were a factor in Fuller's stepping down.
Bombardier revealed Jones' appointment as the new commercial aircraft sales chief on December 3. Ironically, one day later, on December 4, the company announced that Iraqi Airways had placed five firm orders for CSeries aircraft, and taken options on an additional 11 aircraft. Currently, Bombardier has firm orders for 182 CSeries aircraft, and other types of commitments for 237 aircraft.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this management shuffle is the fact that Bombardier is moving a very successful business jet sales manager into the commercial aircraft sales slot. At Bombardier's business aircraft division, Jones and his team were responsible for securing huge, multibillion dollar orders from fractional ownership operator NetJets as well as luxury charter operator VistaJet.
Granted, there is a world of difference between selling in the business jet market and selling in the commercial airliner market. The two markets have entirely different sets of customers that have different priorities and tend to value various aircraft attributes differently. For instance, cost per available seat mile (CASM) is a big factor in the purchasing decisions of commercial airlines and leasing companies, but is not really relevant to business jet operators. Nevertheless, a good salesman is a good salesman, and Jones should find that the essentials of his new position are much the same as those of his previous position.
As they were for Fuller, though, some things regarding the CSeries program will be outside of Jones' control. One reason for relatively slow CSeries sales may well be that prospective customers are taking a wait-and-see approach while the aircraft continues its flight test campaign. The CSeries made its initial flight in September 2013 and, since then, a perception (rightly or wrongly) has taken hold among many industry observers that the pace of the flight test effort to date has been quite slow. Reinforcing this perception is the fact that Bombardier has been planning a one-year flight test program for the CSeries, a quite ambitious schedule that would result in service entry of the aircraft in September 2014. (It should be noted that Bombardier plans to revisit its program schedule plans once three flight test aircraft are in the air. So far, only the initial aircraft has flown.)
A number of reasons might account for potential buyers being a little hesitant about pulling the trigger on a CSeries purchase. First, the CSeries is an all-new design, and recent program delays and difficulties with other all-new airliners such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 have resulted in considerable skepticism in the marketplace regarding such projects.
Second, even though Bombardier is an established aircraft manufacturer, it has traditionally specialized in business jets and regional aircraft. With the CSeries, it is attempting to break into a new market, which can add a level of uncertainty in the minds of more than a few potential customers.
Finally, Bombardier claims that the CSeries will provide a 15 percent reduction in operating costs and a 20 percent reduction in fuel burn compared to in-production aircraft in the same class. These types of promises surely capture the attention of cash-strapped carriers but, at the same time, carriers will want to see flight test results that bear out, or at least largely bear out, these claims. The flight test effort is not yet advanced enough to provide this type of data.
The CSeries is key to Bombardier's future in the commercial jetliner market. Jones has a big job ahead of him, one in which success is certainly not assured, but is nevertheless possible.