This could well be the week that Bombardier’s CSeries makes its eagerly anticipated first flight. Speaking to AIN on the eve of last week’s Paris Air Show, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone reported that his engineers have been busily subjecting the first flight test vehicle (FTV1) to simulated flight conditions. At the same time, the company has been preparing a Global 5000 chase airplane to evaluate flight conditions on the day of the first flight, which Arcamone indicated could be achieved before the end of this month.
In Canada, Bombardier has spent the last couple of weeks performing final systems installations on FTV2, the second of five test airplanes scheduled to be airborne within the next three months. Arcamone explained that the first production CSeries has started to take shape. Wing production is under way at Bombardier’s subsidiary in Belfast, Northern Ireland, while workers at Shenyang Aircraft in China have started building the first rear fuselage sections, and cockpit preparations are advancing in the airframer’s own plant in St. Laurent, Quebec.
When the CSeries FTV1 was unveiled in March, Arcamone confirmed that Bombardier had managed to resolve a number of concerns over supplier performance. The most notable improvement seems to have been at Shenyang, where fuselage sections are now being produced at a rate of one per month. “They are now meeting and exceeding our quality standards even better than expected,” he said. “I know there was a lot of heartache surrounding Shenyang. But we now have complete confidence in the capabilities of our Chinese partners.”
Arcamone revealed that he expects Bombardier to be building 120 aircraft per annum within the next three or four years. The company expects to have completed construction of its dedicated CSeries assembly building at Mirabel near Montreal next year.
Bombardier did not add to its CSeries sales tally during the Paris show, but Arcamone predicted that the company will have logged firm orders for at least 300 aircraft from 20 customers by the time of the airplane’s scheduled entry into service in the middle of next year. By the end of this year, he expects these totals to have reached 200 and 18, respectively. The airframer now holds orders for 177 CSeries twinjets, including a recent conditional deal with Russian leasing group Ilyushin Finance for 32 of the larger of the pair of CSeries variants, the 135- to 160-seat CS300. Arcamone indicated that demand now seems to be shifting toward the larger model, especially from low-cost carriers.