In The Works: Bombardier Continental

 - April 16, 2008, 11:22 AM

Four of five test aircraft planned for the Continental flight-test program are now flying, with the fourth (dedicated to proving the reliability and maintainability of the interior in flight) having made its first flight on April 5. By the middle of last month the four airplanes had accumulated more than 641 hr on 398 flights.

The first test airplane, dedicated to aerodynamics and performance testing and flying since August 14 last year, has logged more than 263 hr on 141 flights. It has flown up to a maximum speed of 353 kt and demonstrated takeoffs above the model’s mtow of 37,500 lb and landings at the mlw of 33,750 lb. Testing of forward and aft c.g., low- and high-speed handling characteristics, ice shapes and manual flight control reversions have been conducted.

Continental number two (S/N 2002), dedicated to systems testing, has undergone engine operating characteristics testing, fuel systems testing and the preliminary evaluation of the wing anti-ice and dry-air systems. It first flew on October 9 last year and has 156 hr on 77 flights.

The avionics test airplane, S/N 2003, after completing autopilot assessments, is currently testing the Honeywell APU. It has 140 hr on 65 flights. Testing of the yaw damper, flight management, EFIS and EICAS systems will follow.

Aircraft four, the first production representative Continental, and the first with a complete interior and functioning galley and lav, has flown 82 hr on 25 flights. It will remain at Bombardier’s Flight Test Center in Wichita for preliminary noise evaluations and passenger comfort assessment before being deployed to the Arctic for cold-weather operations testing. In addition, it is pegged for complete community noise testing, hot-weather operations, ECS distribution testing, smoke evaluation testing, climb/descent and cruise performance as a production-representative aircraft and final certification authority operational assessment.

Using 60 ground-test articles, Bombardier has been conducting Continental ground testing since January last year. A structurally completed static test article, in operation since February last year, is being used to demonstrate that airframe and subcomponents meet design limits and strength requirements. The fatigue test article will simulate in-flight and ground loads, with the first phase of testing to begin this summer to measure durability, while the second phase will test the aircraft’s ability to withstand fatigue damage occurring in flight. Each phase will simulate one aircraft lifetime of 15,000 hr.

Certification of the Continental by Transport Canada is planned for the third quarter of this year and first delivery of a green aircraft later this year. Bombardier reports more than 188 Continentals sold; price completed is $14.675 million (1998 $).

Meanwhile, Honeywell announced at EBACE 2002 in Geneva that the 6,051-lb-thrust AS907 engine that is powering the Continental was expected to receive FAA certification by the end of last month. The initial program schedule called for certification in March last year. Honeywell has 18 AS907 engines in test and an additional 10 engines are in flight tests at Bombardier, where they have accumulated more than 1,300 flight hours. Said Mike Redenbaugh, v-p and general manager for commercial propulsion at Honeywell, “We have accumulated more than 17,000 hours of test operation on the AS907 engines and anticipate having more than 20,000 test hours by the time the engine enters service next year.”