Bombardier continues to cite a 12-month flight-test schedule for the CSeries airliner, notwithstanding repeated delays to first flight that have now pushed expected entry into service to August next year at the earliest. Speaking Thursday during the company’s second-quarter earnings call, Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin attempted to refute reports that the company has begun “reassessing” the timespan between first flight and service entry. Although he characterized the test plan as “busy,” Beaudoin refused to concede that the problems the company has experienced in executing first flight would in any way influence the timing of the certification effort.
“First of all, the testing that we do [before flying] the first flight-test vehicle is a lot more intensive than what we would do to get the other aircraft to fly,” said Beaudoin, referring to the second through fifth CS100 prototypes. “What you learn on the first aircraft, the first thing that happens with the team is we go back and look at the other flight-test vehicles, see if we need to make a modification [and] see if we made the same mistake on the other ones. So we’re learning how to get the airplanes ready.”
Unwilling now to pinpoint a first-flight target, Bombardier has said only that it expects to reach the milestone “in the coming weeks.” When it announced the latest delay last month, it blamed unspecified difficulties with “overall” system validation and ongoing software integration. Last Thursday, Beaudoin offered an example of an apparently persistent string of hitches.
“It’s not tests that we had not anticipated,” he explained. “It’s when we make a test, the earned value that we planned on the day of the test is not quite at the level we anticipated. For example, we’re doing a test and we discover that wires are plugged [together] upside-down. It’s not a big deal, but we have to go back and find out why it happened and then it takes us two days rather than a half a day [to perform the test.]”
What Bombardier calls important and complex preparations for first flight includes “aircraft in-the-loop” testing (ACIL). During ACIL tests, engineers “fly” the aircraft on the ground in a simulated flight environment to ensure the first aircraft behaves in the same manner as experienced with the on-the-ground Complete Integrated Aircraft Systems Test Area (Ciasta), also known as “Aircraft 0.” Next, the flight-test team plans to conduct low- and high-speed taxiing while it awaits a flight-test permit from Transport Canada.