Global 5000 makes its Paris debut

 - July 28, 2008, 11:41 AM

With a fresh coat of paint and 60 hours of logged time under its wing since it started flying on March 7, the first of two flight-test versions of Bombardier’s new Global 5000 made its public debut at the week-long Paris Air Show last month. The “super large” business jet–a truncated Global Express–is scheduled to enter corporate service in the fourth quarter of next year, fully certified to the latest FAA, JAA and Transport Canada amendments.

Because this Global 5000 doesn’t have RVSM approval, Bombardier did not attempt to establish any speed records on its way to or from Paris. But the aircraft’s first transatlantic trip was also its longest nonstop flight to date–six-plus hours–and it gave the crew of seven (three pilots, three technicians and a flight-test engineer) the opportunity to collect long-range fuel burn and other data. The airplane took off from White Plains, N.Y., at 85,000 pounds (2,700 pounds below mtow) and headed for an initial cruise altitude of 41,000 feet. The Atlantic crossing was made at FL430 and Mach 0.85.

Bombardier said that with the capability to carry eight people 4,800 nm nonstop at Mach 0.85 (488 ktas) and fly shorter-range missions at Mach 0.89 (513 ktas), the Global 5000 will be “faster than any competing jet.” At $33.5 million (complete, including a head-up display), the Global 5000 is competitively priced with the G400 and Falcon 900EX, but the company’s technical data shows the aircraft outshining these competitors in runway performance (see chart) and total trip time, and overall cabin size and passenger amenities, which include both a forward and aft lavatory.

The flying portion of the certification program will take about a year (from this March to the expected certification date of next March) and require just two airplanes because of the 90-percent commonality between the Global 5000 and Global Express in systems, avionics, handling characteristics, warranty coverage, type ratings and speeds. This commonality eliminates the need to take airplanes through several test regimes (including flutter) that are typically required on a completely new design or a derivative with less commonality, according to Bombardier. Nevertheless, flight-test Global 5000s are equipped with rooftop emergency escape hatches and recovery chutes, test pilot Gary Bruce told AIN.

Later this month, Global 5000 sales reps will begin meeting with buyers to get an early start on specifications for custom-designed cabin interiors and paint designs. With the Global 5000, Bombardier is introducing a customization catalog that will show the optional choices of interior designs, colors and materials. By transferring partial completions installation specifications to green aircraft, completion cycle times will be “substantially reduced,” Bombardier claims.

Customized interiors are typical for corporate jets in the super-large category, but one of Bombardier’s particular targets for improvement was the folding tables between the club seating. Frequently, they are too high in relation to a passenger’s seating position and not very sturdy. Bombardier said that in the Global 5000, the tables have been adjusted for height and strengthened so a 50-pound force on the tip causes less than a half-inch deflection.

The Rockwell Collins cabin electronics (including Airshow) in the Global 5000 incorporate another Bombardier first: centralized troubleshooting and maintenance of all the electronic components in the cabin, including the office and entertainment units, waste management system, water management system, window shades and lighting.

Bombardier said that eventually the improvements made to the cabin amenities in the Global 5000 would transfer to the Global Express.

First flight of Global 5000 S/N 9130, the second and final aircraft in the flight-test program, is expected in the fourth quarter. This aircraft will be equipped with a full production interior at Bombardier’s Montreal completion center before relocating to Wichita for mostly function-and-reliability testing. This aircraft will become a customer demonstrator.

Bombardier launched the Global 5000 a little more than a year ago, following a two-year market research effort, during which the company “identified the specific needs of customers and operators in the evolving super-large business jet segment.”

At a media briefing and viewing of Global 5000 S/N 9127 at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., a day before it was to depart for the Paris Air Show, Bombardier Business Aircraft president Peter Edwards declined to provide a specific number of orders or options received. He said only that “it’s a tough market,” but he is “pleased with the market acceptance of the new airplane” and “we intend to be the market leader” in this segment.

Lackluster Bizjet Sales

Although progress continues well on the Global 5000, as well as the recently certified Challenger 300, Bombardier reported sharply lower revenue and income in its first fiscal quarter (February through April), the result mainly of continued weak demand for business jets.

The Canadian firm’s aerospace unit posted revenues of C$2.4 billion ($1.8 billion) in the three-month period ended April 30, compared with C$2.7 billion ($2.02 billion) for the same period a year ago. Bombardier attributed the lower revenues to the decline in business aircraft deliveries (16 in the quarter) and a lower effective exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, partially offset by higher deliveries of regional jets
(47 in the quarter).

The aerospace unit also reported a loss of $7 million in income compared with a $158 million gain last year. The aerospace unit’s firm-order backlog totaled $17.1 billion as of April 30, compared with $23 billion as of the same quarter last year, “resulting from higher deliveries versus orders received.”

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, Bombardier has received net firm orders for a total of 18 regional aircraft and an undisclosed number of business jets. As part of a previously announced major restructuring, Bombardier has sold Northern Ireland’s Belfast Airport to Spanish construction company Grupo Ferrovial.

eanwhile, Bombardier employees were hit with another round of layoffs last month–about 90 workers at the company’s aircraft finishing and flight-test center in Tucson, Ariz., and 1,050 at aircraft facilities in Northern Ireland.