More delays for CRJ1000

 - December 29, 2009, 9:33 AM

Bombardier’s CRJ1000 program now appears unlikely to receive Canadian and EASA certification before the second half of this year–a delay of at least another three months–after a second software “glitch” grounded all test flying in September, Bombardier Aerospace COO Guy Hachey said last month during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. Hachey said Bombardier plans to resume flying its pair of CRJ1000 test aircraft “shortly after Christmas,” at which time it would still need to complete roughly 30 percent of its testing regime.

The first software problem, initially revealed during early summer, delayed planned certification from late this year to Bombardier’s first fiscal quarter of next year, which runs from February 1 to April 30. That so-called glitch involved the airplane’s new control-by-wire rudder system. “At the time we thought we had found the root cause; we did put some fixes in place, and we experienced another one almost a month-and-a-half later [at the end of August] similar to the one we had earlier,” said Hachey.

“Obviously we did not get the root cause,” he added. “At that point we put together our most seasoned people outside of the program for external help to make a full assessment of the problem, and we have determined the root cause.”

A resolution will require some further software changes, said Hachey. “So we’re in the process now of going through some thorough simulation to make sure that what we put in place will be the final fix…Unfortunately it is causing a delay and we’re unhappy with that.”

Bombardier continues to work with the program’s two customers–France’s Brit Air and Spain’s Air Nostrum–to find “alternative solutions for them,” said Hachey. Financial penalties, said the Bombardier COO, are not “greatly material.” However, Bombardier will feel an effect from a cash-flow perspective because it will continue to build production aircraft while it finishes flight testing. “So we’ll be building aircraft in Q1 and Q2 and not delivering aircraft,” said Hachey. “So it will be taking up working capital to be able to do that, but it is how we will be able to deliver all these aircraft once we get to the second half.”

Bombardier holds firm orders for 35 airplanes from Air Nostrum and 14 from Brit Air. Last summer Bombardier cut ties with a one-time third customer–Italy’s MyAir–after the Italian civil aviation authority (ENAC) lifted its operating certificate for financial reasons, effectively reducing the type’s firm order count by 15 airplanes.