Unspecified and apparently last-minute computer software problems prompted Bombardier to scrap its end-of-June target for first flight of the CSeries, the company announced last Wednesday. It now expects first flight to happen by the end of this month.
“To enhance the effectiveness of the flight program, Bombardier extended the time line slightly to allow for additional software upgrades for improved system maturity and functionality,” the OEM said in a statement. Asked to elaborate, a Bombardier spokesman said the company has chosen not to disclose the nature of the software upgrades.
The company also announced it has finished ground vibration tests, as well us other unnamed software upgrades and corresponding tests of flight-test vehicle 1 (FTV1). It has obtained Safety of Flight (SOF) statements from all its suppliers, and Bombardier’s flight-test center has applied to Transport Canada for FTV1’s flight-test permit.
At the start of last month’s Paris Air Show, Bombardier reported to AIN that it saw no technical barriers to meeting its late-June target. On June 15, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone told AIN that the flight-test team was subjecting the first flight-test vehicle (FTV1) to simulated flight conditions, while the company prepared a Global 5000 chase airplane to evaluate flight conditions on the day of first flight.
“I would say that it’s all in the hands of the pilots,” Arcamone said. “We think we’re well within reach of a first flight by the end of [June].”
The latest “issues,” however, appear to have caught Bombardier by surprise.
Now performing final systems installations on FTV2, just two weeks ago Bombardier had expected all five test airplanes to fly within about three months. Meanwhile, the first production airplane has begun to take shape, as wing production progresses at Bombardier’s Short Brothers subsidiary in Belfast, workers at Shenyang Aircraft in China proceed with building the first production rear fuselage section and cockpit preparations advance at Bombardier’s plant in St. Laurent, Quebec.
Expecting to finish building a new CSeries assembly plant in Mirabel next year, Bombardier had remained quiet about production rate plans until Paris. However, Arcamone told AIN that he foresees Bombardier building 120 airplanes a year within the next three or four years.
However, he wouldn’t comment on the prospects for sales in Paris before the start of the show, and perhaps for good reason; Bombardier collected no orders for the CSeries at the show. Arcamone did reiterate intentions to gather firm orders for at least 300 airplanes from 20 customers by the time of scheduled entry into service in the middle of next year. He also said he expects his sales force to “easily” collect a firm order for the 200th airplane by the end of this year and increase the customer base to as many as 18. Bombardier now holds firm orders for 177 CSeries airplanes, including those included in the recent completion of a conditional deal with Russia’s Ilyushin Finance Co. for 32 of the larger of the pair of CSeries variants: the 135- to 160-seat CS300.