After a multi-year wait and several delays, SWISS finally received its first of 30 ordered Bombardier CSeries aircraft. Get a first-hand glimpse of the plane’s completely new cabin design, see how SWISS as launch customer welcomed its new baby to the fleet – and then follow along on a scenic flight over the Alps! Since I’m a bit short on time, I’ll leave out most of the background information. I already covered the CSeries’ remarkable design features in my two earlier reports, from the prototype’s presentation a year ago in Zurich and from a factory visit in Montreal

So let’s jump right into it, point our gaze skyward, ‘cause here she is! Straight out of the factory at Mirabel, with a short stop in Dublin: The world’s first CSeries aircraft destined for passenger service, HB-JBA.

As a nice treat for all the fans and spectators, this most modern of airplanes was joined on its low-pass by a true classic: the Lockheed Super Constellation, built no less than 61 years ago!

Here she is awaiting the media crowds, all bright and shiny!

Let’s head inside and check out the biggest remaining secret: How had SWISS decided to equip this cutting-edge aircraft on the inside? Had they found the C Series to be enough of an attractive brand on its own and contented themselves with fitting their standard cabin? Or were they determined to carry on the innovative air surrounding this airplane and install a few fancy new gimmicks themselves? Let’s find out! The rear galley looks pretty neat, especially compared to the cramped workspace in the airline’s re-fitted A320s. Also notice the wooden floor, which adds a bit of a homey living-room feel.

Equally spacious, the rear restroom, which is also large enough for disabled people. Very nice!

And now, let’s turn to the main cabin!

Uh-oh, looks pretty impressive! The dark leather contrasts nicely with the general brightness of the cabin. And those metallic-looking stripes (which are in fact plastic) add a touch of classiness I’ve never seen before.

The seats are extremely flat, too, allowing for more passenger space. And according to manufacturer ZIM of Germany they weigh just 8.4kg!

Taking a seat. For me there was more than enough legroom. Another neat feature is that the table isn’t held by two struts on the sides (that tend to interfere with your legs), but instead by a single column which is much less disturbing as it goes between your legs. The downside of the slim seats is that there’s virtually no storage space left. An iPad won’t fit into the magazine hold, and trying to store a book is virtually impossible too.

The two cup holders at the bottom are a nice idea – however, they’re very, very tight, and as we will find out later, not overly sturdy either.

Generally though, the seat design is very impressive, including some classy design features. As can be expected from such flat seats, there’s virtually no cushioning, thus the sitting experience is on the hard side. With the CSeries mainly being used as a regional aircraft on flights that are rarely longer than an hour or ninety minutes, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue though. At least the seats recline a tiny bit.

Taking a look at the exit rows, and at the trademark large overhead bins.

When looking down the cabin it becomes obvious how many windows there are, and how large they’re built! While looking at any other airplane’s cabin walls may turn you claustrophobic, here the windows are actually the dominating factor, creating a totally new feeling of space!

Back outside, relaxing in the hangar lounge while listening to the executives and politicians doing their thing.

Thomas Klühr, CEO of SWISS (left) and Fred Cromer, Vice President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft focused on the many benefits this “game changing” aircraft has for both sides, but also on the mutual respect and friendship that has evolved over the years. Klühr mentioned that with the CSeries’ 20% lower CO2 emissions, his airline will be able to reduce its emissions by 90’000 tons – which is about the output of 18’000 Swiss citizens combined and equals the emissions of 7’000 flights between Zurich and London.

Stephan Widrig, CEO of Zurich Airport emphasized the benefits of the new quiet aircraft from his point of view, and said how crucial it was to have an economically sound home carrier which is able to afford (and profit from) the most modern technologies. Carmen Walker Späh, Government Councillor and Head of the Department for Economic Affairs from the Canton of Zurich supported that opinion and expressed how pleased she was with the technologically advanced aircraft – especially with regards to the noise-plagued inhabitants of the airport area.

Finally, Swiss rapper Bligg was introduced as a godfather for the new aircraft, which was subsequently baptized “Kanton Zürich” – this in an attempt to showcase the many benefits his new generation of airplanes would have for the whole Zurich region, be it in terms of noise, fuel efficiency, eco friendliness or simple economics – because of all the additional jobs in generates.

Oh yes, another benefit: Great food was served too!

Well fed, it was time to re-enter HB-JBA – and stay seated this time. All set for joining her on her first flight out of Zurich!

Thomas Koch, Fleet Chief of the CSeries fleet at SWISS, welcomed the 110 eager passengers on board.

With a slight delay, we were pulled out of the hangar, and the engines were started. All the new technology packed into the engines wasn’t really noticeable during the start-up. There was a loud howling noise as the engine spooled up past idle, but apart from that it was quick and quiet – not at all like the lengthy endeavour known from other Geared Turbofan-driven planes (like the A320neo).

Quickly, we were ready for taxi, passing Zurich’s tower and even cheekily overtaking Emirate’s A380 on the way to the runway. Looks like Airbus’ technological masterpiece has just been replaced by something even newer!

Lined up on Runway 16 (like the big boys), the engines once again produced their howling sound as they spooled up, before it transformed into a nice low roaring noise not unlike the one of a fast sports car! Take-off was equally quick – after a ground roll of 30 seconds we all but jumped into the air, and assumed a pretty steep climb!

We’re actually still over the runway, but look how high up we already are!

Leaving the Zurich area and setting course for central Switzerland.

Mr. GoPro is doing its job…

…which allows me to deter my attention to the inside for a moment. One thing I haven’t talked about yet are the passengers’ overhead panels. Thank God they installed individual air-conditioning nozzles in addition to the reading lights. But wait – what’s that iPhone glued to the ceiling in the distance?

Believe it or not, that’s SWISS’ new approach to an inflight entertainment system. Instead of equipping each seat with an individual display, there’s one of these mini screens installed above each row. They show the safety demo, the airshow, and will probably also showcase short movies in the future – all while being the same size as my phone (only cleaner). It’s an interesting design approach and it sure looks cool. I’m still undecided on their usability though, as they’re so small you can barely read the shown maps, and the reflections are pretty bad. Shortsighted people will definitely hate these with a passion – but even for all others it might take some getting used to.

While these screens may be one of the biggest experiments in the cabin, there are more – and all of them are a bit two-sided. The same applies for those neat metallic seat decorations. While I immediately fell for them at first, I doubt their usability in the long run at a second glance. They sure look classy and hey, they even let you stalk the person sitting in front of you – but just think of all the cleaning they will require during daily operations (fingerprints anyone!?). And additionally, how flimsily these thin plastic strips are built – you could easily rip them off with a finger, as a Canadian journalist next to me willingly demonstrated. Rather unexpected was his other damage to the aircraft – as he tried to squeeze his water bottle back into the way too tiny pocket, the whole thing just came off! Now don’t get me wrong, I find the will to include such new design features extremely commendable and I congratulate SWISS for giving them a try. Still, I have my doubts on how well they will last during the daily operations of these workhorses, with hundreds of passengers being transported on half a dozen legs per day. Time will tell!

Back to slightly more solid matter: the Swiss Alps come into view outside!

We’re right in the middle of this striking place already – right above the Eiger North Face

Continuing along the Aletsch Glacier to the Valais Region…

Meanwhile, the invited guests are thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Way too soon we’re heading north again and soon line up for the ILS Approach to Zurich’s runway 14 again.

Back at base, saying ‘hi’ to the old workhorses that will be replaced: the BAe Avro 100s

Back on our parking stand it’s time to bid the beautifully light and airy cabin goodbye…

…and quickly dart to Zurich Airport’s prime spotting position in order to catch the busy CS100 on its second media flight of the day. Impressive Takeoff performance once more!

Welcome to the fleet, cute little Canadian, and always safe flights to you and your brothers!

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