Bombardier is “guardedly optimistic” about being able to announce new sales for its CSeries narrowbody family at the Paris air show, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing Chet Fuller said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general assembly in Cape Town, South Africa.

However, the aircraft will not fly before the Paris air show, he says.

The first flight test vehicle (FTV-1) has been handed over to the flight test department after concluding the last safety of flight checklist items. FTV-1 is undergoing further ground tests before being prepared for first flight, which is now expected in late June.

A total of five FTVs will participate in the CS100 flight test campaign, according to Fuller. Their entries to flight test will be spaced about a month apart.

He does not believe first flight will be the most important trigger for building more trust in the industry, but “the game changer for trust will be entry into service.” Fuller points out that the airlines’ recent experiences with program performance are impacting sales campaigns. “We are writing guarantees on things that have never been guaranteed. It is because of the program performance of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380” – both of which were seriously delayed.

“There is no faith in anything a manufacturer says today,” he says. Fuller is nevertheless hopeful that data collected in the initial flight test phase will help in talks with airlines.

Bombardier is expected to announce the conversion of one conditional order in Paris in addition to potential new orders.

Fuller says he expects the CS300 to get about 60-70% of the CSeries orders over the medium term. Bombardier currently holds 82 firm orders for the CS300 and 62 for the smaller CS100.

Demand for the 160-seat version of the CS300 depends largely on two factors, Fuller says. Carriers who plan to operate longer stage lengths would tend to go for lower density layouts. And that also applies to airlines who are particularly sensitive about cabin crew costs. Going above 150 seats means airlines are required to add a fourth cabin crew member.

Given the market tends to go for larger aircraft, driving unit costs down, Fuller points out that “the airplane can get larger.” He does not see any serious limitations on the engine side for a further CSeries stretch, and the relatively high landing gear would also accommodate a longer fuselage without undue tail strike risk. But he also cautions that “we have an awful lot of work to do” with the current two versions and that stretching the aircraft isn’t planned in the short term.

Fuller says he is not concerned about the A319NEO and the Boeing 737 Max 7, the direct competitors of the CS300, which make up only a fraction of the NEO and MAX order backlog. He estimates that the CS300 will have 12-15% lower seat mile costs than the A319NEO and does not believe that “the MAX 7 will be competitive on an operating cost basis.”