Bombardier Avoids Pinpointing Causes of CSeries Delay

 - February 12, 2014, 10:01 PM
The Bombardier CSeries flight-test vehicles now fly multiple times each day, according to Bombardier. (Photo: Bombardier)

Almost a month after announcing the latest schedule delay of the CSeries airliner, Bombardier still won’t identify the precise reasons for the slippage. Although the company continues to point to a lack of “overall systems maturity” for the latest change in service entry target from September of this year to the second half of next year, it hasn’t identified from which system or systems the problems might stem.

“We’re not pinpointing any one system,” Bombardier Commercial Aircraft marketing vice president Philippe Poutissou said. “We just want to make sure all the systems communicate properly…If we don’t have full capability, it limits us on what tests we can do.”

Speaking with AIN on the eve of the Singapore Airshow, Poutissou insisted “the situation has gotten better,” adding that the first two flight-test vehicles now fly “multiple” times each day. Bombardier also continues to decline to offer specifics about the number of flight-test hours each airplane has flown.

The company has delivered the third flight-test vehicle - dedicated primarily to avionics trials – to its flight-test team, and schedules call for FTV3 and FTV4 to follow FTV1 and FTV2 into the air “in the coming weeks,” said Poutissou, who called FTV2 the program’s “systems airplane,” meaning its primary purpose centers on testing items such as the electrical and fly-by-wire systems.

During an October 31 teleconference to discuss third-quarter 2013 financial results, the manufacturer said that it updated the aircraft’s fly-by-wire control system software “as planned” between the third and fourth test flights. However, three months later, test pilots continue to fly both aircraft in “direct,” rather than “normal” mode, meaning without the full use of its fly-by-wire system. As he did during November’s Dubai Air Show, Poutissou said pilots will begin flying in normal mode in a matter of weeks.

Poutissou said none of its customers has canceled orders as a result of the delays, and characterized their attitudes toward the program as “supportive” and “very understanding” of the importance of achieving a high degree of reliability. Bombardier counts two customers from the Asia-Pacific region: Korean Air, which holds a firm order for 10 airplanes, and CDB Leasing (part of China Development Bank), which placed a conditional order for 30.

“Not all our customers will be affected in the same way,” said Poutissou, who also suggested that production could be accelerated to maintain delivery dates for customers holding late delivery slots. Still, he said, production plans remain unchanged. The first phase of “ramp up” calls for a peak rate of 120 airplanes per year – or a rate of one every two days, as described by Poutissou. However, he said Bombardier will eventually hold the capacity to speed production to a one-per-day rate, or 240 airplanes a year.

Having delayed the program on four separate occasions, the company continues to cite a $3.9 billion development price tag. Poutissou said he could offer no new information on the potential costs of the delays ahead of the company’s February 13 quarterly earnings briefing.