Immature Systems Delay CSeries Again

AIN Air Transport Perspective » January 20, 2014
The first CSeries flight test vehicle, FTV1, flew for the first time on September 16. (Photo: Bombardier)
January 16, 2014, 9:54 AM

Bombardier attributed a lack of “overall systems maturity” to the latest delay of the CSeries CS100 airliner, now scheduled to enter service in the second half of 2015. In a statement released on Thursday, the company also said the larger CS300 would enter service six months later. Previous schedules called for certification and entry into service of the CS100 by this September.

“We are taking the required time to ensure a flawless entry-into-service,” said Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone. “We are very pleased that no major design changes have been identified; this gives us confidence that we will meet our performance targets. While the process has taken more time than we had expected, our suppliers are aligned with the program’s schedule and together, we will continue to work closely to move the program steadily forward. With the first flight of flight test vehicle 2 [FTV2] successfully completed on January 3, 2014, the CSeries aircraft program will continue to gain traction over the coming months.”

The revelation of the latest delay virtually coincided with a separate announcement that Bombardier had collected a firm order for 16 CS300s from Saudi Arabia’s Al Qahtani Aviation Company during the Bahrain Airshow. The owner of Al Qahtani, which also reserved options for another 10 of the airplanes, plans to launch a new airline called SaudiGulf Airlines. Bombardier also just revealed that Sweden’s Malmo Aviation has agreed to become the first CS100 operator in late 2015. Malmo holds a firm order five CS100s and five CS300s.

Originally expected to gain certification by the end of last year, the CSeries experienced several delays to first flight before finally taking to the air last September.

By the time Bombardier Commercial Aircraft marketing vice president Philippe Poutissou spoke with AIN during last November’s Dubai Airshow, the company planned to issue an update on the flight-test schedule of its new CSeries jet “in a few weeks” as program managers assessed whether to maintain the company’s admittedly ambitious entry-into-service target date of one year after first flight.

Although at the time, Bombardier reported the first flight-test vehicle (FTV1) had completed 190 total hours of testing, a month earlier Poutissou told AIN that FTV1 had flown a total of eight hours over the course of three flights. Bombardier conducted the fourth test flight, lasting 1.5 hours, on October 30, more than seven weeks after first flight.

Bombardier no longer specifies the number hours flown by its two aircraft; however, a spokesman told AIN on Thursday that the program has now logged some 250 total hours, in the air and on the ground. Together, FTV1 and FTV2 have flown more than 20 times, he added. Plans call for five prototypes to fly a total of 2,400 hours before the airplane gains certification.

Due to inclement weather in and around Mirabel, Canada, Bombardier has now sent FTV1 to its facilities in Wichita to continue testing, allowing it to fly more often, according to the spokesman. Schedules call for the third flight test vehicle, FTV3, to take to air in a matter of a few weeks, he said. 

During an October 31 teleconference to discuss third-quarter 2013 financial results, the manufacturer said that it updated the aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight control system software “as planned” between the third and fourth test flights and also conducted some vibration testing that it hadn’t performed before the first flight.

By Thursday, however, neither FTV1 now FTV2 had flown in normal mode, only in so-called direct mode, meaning without full use of the fly-by-wire system. The spokesman told AIN that crews will begin flying in normal mode imminently.

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