Amid intense scrutiny on its cash shortage issues, Bombardier displayed its first two Global 7000 flight-test vehicles to the press on November 3, and company executives emphasized that the “right resources” are in place to develop its new flagship business jet. “The 7000 is the number-one priority for Bombardier Business Aircraft and for me personally,” said David Coleal, who took over in May as president of the division.
Speaking to reporters at Bombardier’s facility in Downsview, Ontario, Coleal emphasized that Bombardier is focused on its new Global 7000 entry-into-service timeline of second-half 2018. Bombardier executives, however, would not provide a timeline for the longer-range Global 8000, saying only that they are focused first on the 7000. Nor were they ready to discuss the timeline for first flight of the 7000.
But during a tour of the assembly facility for the 7000/8000 line, Bombardier executives displayed the first two 7000 flight-test vehicles and its all-new production line, designed specifically for the 7000/8000 program, that is the company’s most advanced yet. Flight Test Vehicle 1 was assembled, complete with the GE Passport engines and wiring harnesses. Julien Boudreault, GM of operations for the Global 7000/8000 lines, said the harnesses on FTV 1 are “in the final stages of inspection so we can do power on.” FTV 2, one production stage behind FTV 1, was mated to the wings with component installation ongoing. Components for FTVs 3 and 4 also are in production.
The company has tested 35 systems and commissioned 29 different test rigs, said Michel Ouellette, senior v-p of the Global 7000 and 8000 programs. Bombardier has conducted a series of integrated aircraft ground tests across 15 facilities for these programs. In addition, the company has taken delivery of the first 10 Passport engines.
As for the Passport engines, Kathy Mackenzie, GM of Regional Engines & Services at GE Aviation, provided an update of the progress on the engines, saying they have completed 25 of 27 certification tests, with the 26th to be finished shortly. Additionally, the engines have accrued 1,850 hours and 2,150 cycles as the company works toward a certification program that it anticipates will encompass 4,000 hours and 8,000 cycles. The engine began flight testing in late 2014 aboard GE Aviation’s 747-100 flying testbed.
Bombardier is leveraging its experience of its previous work with Rockwell Collins for the Vision flight deck, Ouellette said. The Vision platform, which uses the Pro Line Fusion avionics suite as its based, is already flying on in-service Global 5000s and 6000s. The airframer also is building on experience gained through its use of fly-by-wire technologies (FBW) on the CSeries, he said. The Global 7000 FBW uses ‘”the same technology…the same supply base,” Ouellette added.
The Global 7000 development program also is borrowing expertise from the CSeries. Over the development cycles, CSeries engineers and other workers have gradually shifted to the Global 7000, and Bombardier now has 2,000 employees dedicated to the program. Ouellette said the company is continuing to expand the Global 7000 employment base as progress on the program continues.
Bombardier is testing and building components at its various locations, including Querétaro, Mexico, Montreal and the Downsview facility. But like the Global 5000/6000 family, the Global 7000 will be assembled in Downsview. Bombardier has transformed its Hangar 10, which has housed production or assembly of numerous Bombardier models, into a five-position assembly line that employs an “Atlas” system to move aircraft down the line and laser-guided technology to ensure precision manufacturing.
Boudreault called the process “game changing,” saying it integrates every phase, beginning with the design of the aircraft. “Everything works together,” he said. The process starts on the floor, where specially designed reflector mirrors are strategically placed to help guide laser technology to ensure accuracy and precision. According to Boudreault, the process was designed to ensure consistency and repeatability. The laser technology guides articulated robot drilling, providing a tolerance for accuracy and precision within less than one thousandth of an inch.
“We’re excited by the unprecedented precision and quality we’ve observed on the assembly of the first two flight-test vehicles,” Ouellette said. “This further validates that Bombardier made the right choice in the technology.”
Unlike typical manufacturing processes, the one used for the Global 7000 begins with wing preparation in the first position, which is then moved via the Atlas system to the second position for attachment to the fuselage. The system removes most use of cranes to lift the aircraft and components to transport between production stations. It also dramatically speeds up the process of shifting the aircraft in progress between stations from hours to mere seconds.
The Global 7000/8000 program has also gone paperless, using Windows-based tablets to provide work orders. These tablets are tied into the production process. If some part of assembly does not appear calibrated, the tablets require certain actions to be taken before work can continue. Bombardier did not break out the investment it has made into the redesign of its production process, but Boudreault expressed confidence that the automated approach will provide a return.
As development continues, Bombardier is continuing to hold focus groups on the new Global 7000. Coleal noted that the aircraft will be the only purpose-built, four-zone business jet. The aircraft will have a 111-foot-long fuselage, while the cabin is 54 feet and 7 inches long and its windows are 80-percent larger than those used on ithe Global 5000 and 6000. Bombardier said the Model 7000 is designed with a 7,400-nm range at Mach 0.85, and top speeds that will rival that of Gulfstream’s G650 at Mach 0.925 under certain operating conditions.
Coleal added he is encouraged that “backlog is strong” for the Global 7000, although Bombardier does not detail orders. The 2018 timeline was set this summer, some two years later than the Canadian-headquartered manufacturer originally had hoped. The aircraft, unveiled in 2010, was originally targeted to reach market next year.
The 8000 was to follow a year behind the 7000, but Bombardier executives declined to update the timeline. They stressed that their efforts are centered on bringing the 7000 to market. The 8000, which will be shorter than 7000 but have a 7,900-nm range, will have 80-percent commonality with the 7000.