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Aerospace manufacturers Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and Airbus, a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (NASDAQOTH: EADSY ) , claim a virtual duopoly over the large commercial jet market. With airlines in an arms race to modernize fleets, a prime position in this battle should prove lucrative for shareholders of commercial aircraft manufacturers. But while Boeing and Airbus clearly hold the top two spots, another manufacturer is firing up its engines.
Expanding product line
Canadian manufacturer Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B ) is hardly new to the commercial jet business. The manufacturer has supplied airlines with the ubiquitous Canadair regional jets, and provided the popular Q400 Turboprop used by many carriers.
But Bombardier's latest move takes it into Boeing and Airbus territory, as Bombardier launches its C Series jet that competes with the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A319. However, the C Series is not merely a clone of one of the duopolists' aircraft; it has its own features and purpose.
Quietly moving in
Jet aircraft have a reputation for being noisy, and this has hampered the use of many jets at more urban airports. Bombardier has a strong focus on noise reduction in the C Series, marketing it as a primary selling feature.
But having quiet aircraft matters to more than just people who want to be able to sleep at night. Quiet aircraft also make it easier for airlines to operate out of urban airports where noise regulations would keep out other aircraft.
This is already being seen as privately held Porter Airlines tries to get approval for its plan to operate out of the more centralized Toronto Island Airport. The proximity of the Island Airport to downtown Toronto would be a major selling point, and flights would likely command a premium as they attract more high-paying business travelers.
Due to noise concerns, jet aircraft are currently banned from the Toronto Island Airport, but Porter is trying to use the reduced noise levels of the C Series to get that ban lifted. Clearly, the lower noise levels of the C Series work in the aircraft's favor, as approval of Porter's plan would set in motion the airline's orders for the aircraft. Additionally, Air Canada and WestJet have expressed interest in servicing the airport with jets. If noise reduction is a key factor in the decision, these two airlines may be forced to purchase C Series aircraft to operate jet flights from the airport.
Just a side effect?
As much of a benefit as the noise reduction in the C Series is, it wasn't the main goal set forth in the development of the Pratt & Whitney Purepower engines. Fuel efficiency was a higher priority; but, in creating a more fuel-efficient engine, Pratt & Whitney also created a quieter one.
Because of this, the noise reduction in the C Series is actually enhanced by a fuel-centric development rather than being an extra costing energy. Bombardier is now able to market fuel economy and noise reduction in one connected package to potential buyers.
For their own parts, the Boeing 737MAX will feature a quieter LEAP engine, and the LEAP engine will be an option on the Airbus A320neo. But with certification of the first LEAP engines expected to come in 2015, Bombardier has a slight jump on the competition for quiet jets.
Airlines traditionally have looked to Boeing and Airbus to fill all their large commercial aircraft needs. But Bombardier is making a play for a position among the big dogs with its quiet C Series jet. The noise reduction of this aircraft should make it attractive to airlines looking to open up new routes serving urban airports, or expand capacity on existing routes.
Whether or not you own shares of Bombardier, the manufacturer's move into Boeing and Airbus territory could shake up the commercial aerospace industry. If Bombardier can gain a foothold, things could get very interesting for all players should Bombardier choose to move toward even larger aircraft in the long term.
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