Bombardier CSeries Maintaining ‘Critical Path’

 - March 11, 2013, 1:45 PM
Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone, left, and CSeries program head Rob Dewar take questions from the press and financial analysts following last Thursday’s formal introduction of the CSeries first flight-test vehicle. (Photo: Gregory Polek)

Bombardier displayed its determination to cement the credibility of the new CSeries narrowbody last Thursday during a formal unveiling of the program’s first flight-test vehicle (FTV1) at its factory in Mirabel, Quebec. In the process, it issued a bold challenge to Boeing and Airbus with the launch of a higher-capacity CS300, capable of carrying as many as 160 passengers. Latvia’s AirBaltic, which had placed a firm order late last year for 10 CS300s, has opted for a 148-seat version of the newly enlarged airplane, stretched two feet beyond its original length of 125 feet to accommodate the extra capacity Bombardier has specified.

In an interview with AIN following the announcement, CSeries program head Rob Dewar explained that Bombardier added the extra length to the center fuselage section, the only part of the CS300’s fuselage that doesn’t use part numbers common to the CS100. However, he said, Bombardier also needed to apply some of the modifications needed for the CS300 to the CS100, thereby contributing to its six-month delay. Other changes include the addition of a pair of overwing emergency exit doors to satisfy certification requirements associated with the capacity addition. Expecting to fly the first 110- to 125-seat CS100 by the end of June, Bombardier now hopes to gain certification in the middle of next year, by which time it fully expects to have gathered firm orders for 300 CSeries jets from at least 20 customers, according to Bombardier Commercial Airplanes president Mike Arcamone. Bombardier has so far collected firm orders for 180 airplanes out of total “commitments” for 382.

“I can say only that we have active campaigns across the globe,” said Arcamone in response to skepticism over Bombardier’s ability to meet its targets. “So you’ll get to see by first flight around the end of June we will pick up more momentum and we’ll make announcements at the right time…I’m very comfortable that we will get to the targets that we established.”

Arcamone stressed that sales need to make economic sense from Bombardier’s perspective, suggesting the company has progressed beyond the point at which it negotiated on the basis of what it considered “launch pricing.”

Meanwhile, from a technical standpoint, the program continues to maintain its “critical path,” said Dewar. The company has apparently resolved “issues” surrounding its supply chain, which he identified as the main contributor to the delay. Even China’s Shenyang Aircraft, now tasked with building the airplane’s rear fuselage section and expected to supply the entire fuselage eventually, drew praise from Dewar.

“They’re doing a great job and have already delivered FTV4,” he said. “We implement[ed] the Bombardier quality system and we put our best practice in place…and they’ve done a really exceptional job.”

Dewar explained that Bombardier has chosen to adopt a “gated process” with Shenyang. Although the contract specified that the Chinese company would take responsibility for the entire fuselage, it will start subsequent work packages–namely, the center and forward fuselage sections–when Bombardier deems its capabilities allow for it. “I will say it’s in progress,” Dewar said in reference to Shenyang’s preparations for the next phase.