Pilot Report: Bombardier Global 7500

 - April 17, 2019, 1:10 PM
(Photo: Bombardier)

When Bombardier announced two new jets in the Global series—the Global 7000 and 8000—in 2010, the clear intention was that the Canadian manufacturer planned to take away the mantle of building the largest purpose-built business jet from Gulfstream Aerospace’s 7,500-nm G650ER. Originally the two new airplanes were meant to complement each other, with the larger 7000 projected to fly 7,400 nm, while the shorter 8000 would fly the farthest at 7,900 nm.

But times, and markets, change. Bombardier engineers carved out 300 nm more range for the 7000—for a Mach .85 NBAA IFR range of 7,700 nm—and the jet’s moniker was changed to Global 7500. Bombardier also went through some serious financial challenges, resulting in the sale of its C Series regional jet program to Airbus. And while the company says that the Global 8000 remains an ongoing program, not much progress seems to be happening, and perhaps the market doesn’t see the need for anything other than the Global 7500.

Now Bombardier is producing CRJs on the commercial airline side and the Globals (soon to include the upgraded 5500 and 6500), Challenger 350 and 650, and Learjet 70/75 for business aviation customers. Although it no longer owns the C Series program, some of the money spent on developing what is now the Airbus A220 helped bring the Global 7500 to life, specifically the new jet’s fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system. Both types share the same FBW system architecture, and future Bombardier models might also benefit from all that development spending and effort.

Bombardier’s first-delivered Global 7500, which is busy fulfilling the many requests for demo flights around the world, conveniently touched down at Teterboro Airport in late March. Engineering test pilot Andrew Sibenaler and demo pilot Kerry Swanson took some time out from their busy schedules to meet me at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York, where we figured the reduced congestion compared to Teterboro would make flying a bit easier.

As it turned out, our timing coincided with the back side of a cold front and resulting strong gusty winds, which at more than 30 knots precluded me from flying the takeoff and landing. For this flight, I sat in the jump seat during and takeoff and landing and switched into the left seat with Sibenaler when we climbed above 10,000 feet. This afforded me the opportunity to spend some time checking out the massive four-zone cabin’s remarkably low noise levels and also to shoot some video of the takeoff and landing, which can be viewed on AIN’s YouTube channel.

Vision Flight Deck

Although branded as Vision, the 7500’s avionics are the latest version of Collins Aerospace’s Pro Line Fusion system, which has been flying in the Global 5000 and 6000 since 2012 and also pioneered synthetic vision imagery on the Collins head-up display (HUD).

In the 7500, there are four large displays arranged in a T format, with primary flight displays (PFDs) in front of each pilot and two multifunction displays (MFDs) in the center. 

Global 7500 flight dck
The view from the flight deck. (Photo: Matt Thurber)

The Collins HUD with enhanced and synthetic vision is standard equipment, along with the Collins MultiScan radar (windshear prediction is optional), the latest performance-based navigation features, and controller-pilot datalink communications.

With just the three of us onboard, the Global 7500 carried 15,250 pounds of fuel, far less than the usable 51,850 pounds that it can carry for maximum-range trips. Maximum takeoff weight is 114,850 pounds, and with our light load, our takeoff weight was just 77,100 pounds. V1 and rotation speed were calculated at 108 knots, with V2 at 123 knots. Takeoff field length was less than a third of Stewart’s nearly 12,000-foot runway, at 3,074 feet. At maximum takeoff weight, the 7500 needs 5,800 feet of runway for takeoff under standard atmospheric conditions.

The plan was to fly to a block of airspace north of Stewart from 14,000 to 17,000 feet for some maneuvering demonstrations. Although it’s fun to climb to an airplane’s maximum altitude (51,000 feet for the 7500) and measure performance at more efficient mid-40s altitudes, we didn’t have time for that, and I wanted to feel how the FBW helps pilots fly this large jet. In any case, we know the 7500’s performance has exceeded original projections, not only because of the growth in range but also because of recent record-breaking flights. Sibenaler and Swanson piloted the March 4 flight from Singapore to Tucson, Arizona, at the time the longest purpose-built business jet flight at 8,152 nm and a new speed record for that leg, landing with 4,300 pounds of fuel remaining. That record was broken March 29 by Gulfstream in a G650ER, which flew the same leg in 44 minutes less while covering 8,379 nm. Clearly, this is a class of business jet that will see strong competition in coming years.

Once the electrically operated main cabin door is closed and with the two pilots seated up front, I pulled the jumpseat into position. With such a large flight compartment, there is plenty of space for a decent jumpseat that doesn’t require contortions to unfold; just slide it from the left side behind the pilot’s seat, make sure it locks in place, rotate to face forward or rearward, then fold the seat down.

Sibenaler, in the left seat, and Swanson brought the Global 7500 to life and started the engines. The jet’s dark-cockpit philosophy makes preparation for engine start a less-than-10-minute operation. During the start of the 7500’s 18,650-pound-thrust GE Passport engines, the Fadec automatically calculates any delay required for rotor bow, limiting N2 core speed to a low level while dry cranking for 15 to 78 seconds, then allowing the engine to start.

Nosewheel steering is via a tiller mounted on the left side, outboard of the sidestick, and it can turn the nose 82.5 degrees and within a minimum pavement width of 75 feet. Maximum nosewheel steering with rudder pedals is 9 degrees. While turning on the ground, pilots need to consider 4 feet 2 inches of wing creep as the wingtips grow through an arc that is greater than the wingspan.

Each pilot has a permanently mounted tablet holder with USB power, outboard of the panel displays. As a FBW airplane with sidestick controls, the 7500 has a flight deck that is roomy and comfortable. Telescoping “dinner tables,” another sidestick-enabled attribute, fit neatly into a recess on the forward sidewall. The sidewall also is fitted with a cupholder.

Taking Off

We taxied out to Stewart’s long Runway 27 while Swanson briefed the takeoff. Once lined up on the runway, Sibenaler advanced the power levers until the autothrottles took over and set maximum power, and the Global 7500 accelerated rapidly, pushing me firmly into the jumpseat. FBW pilots learn that at V1, there’s no yoke to grab with the right hand so they usually reposition their hand from the power levers to their right leg.

During takeoff the FBW system limits nose-up pitch to 17.5 degrees to prevent a tailstrike. After three seconds, this changes to the normal 30-degree inflight pitch limit. Despite the gusty conditions, Sibenaler easily maintained the 200-knot target speed while hand flying and the 7500 plowed solidly through the bumpy air.

With a few quick calls to the area controllers as the 7500 climbed rapidly, we were soon at 14,000 feet, and Sibenalar and I switched seats. After positioning the seat and lining up the eye reference indicators and verifying the proper view through the Collins HUD, I flicked the rudder pedal adjustment switch forward of the tiller to get the pedals at a comfortable reach. I then set the height and angle adjustors on the left armrest so my hand lined up with the sidestick. Global 7500 pilots will want to note their height and angle preset numbers in the little windows on the side of the armrest for easy resetting when swapping seats with fellow pilots.

The sidestick is clean and simple, and not cluttered with too many buttons. On top is a split-design trim switch, autopilot/priority switch, and a CVS CLR switch, which clears enhanced vision system (EVS) or synthetic vision system (SVS) imagery from the HUD. A microphone toggle switch is on the front of the sidestick.

Although Bombardier hasn’t announced whether it plans to offer combined vision system (CVS, a simultaneous overlay of enhanced and synthetic vision) imagery on the Global 7500’s HUD, it is developing CVS for the Global 5500 and 6500. It must be a clue that CVS is coming for the 7500, however, based on the labeling of the CVS CLR switch and also references to “combined vision system imagery” and “CVS” in the 7500 flight crew operating manual description of the HUD controls. In the meantime, pilots can select either EVS, SVS, or just normal flight symbology displayed on the HUD, and these choices don’t affect whatever the pilot has selected on the PFD. For example, turning off SVS on the HUD doesn’t switch SVS off on the PFD. 

Vision system
The Global 7500's Vision avionics system is Bombardier's interpretation of Collins Aerospace's Pro Line Fusion system. It incorporates four displays filling multiple roles. (Photo: Matt Thurber)

The Global 7500’s FBW system is a trim-stable system, so basically it replicates the flying qualities of an airplane with mechanical controls. Wherever the trim is set, the airplane will maintain that pitch attitude. This is the same FBW philosophy that Boeing and Gulfstream have selected for their FBW models, and it can make transitioning to a FBW airplane simpler for non-FBW pilots.

Most flying in the 7500 is done in normal FBW mode, while direct modes are for when equipment fails, leaving the pilot with full control of the airplane but not as many or none of the protections offered by FBW.

There is one key difference, apart from the protections, between normal and direct mode, and that is the trim system. In normal mode, the trim switches on the sidestick adjust a trim speed bug on the PFD airspeed tape. In direct mode, the trim switches control the horizontal stabilizer to trim the airplane.

In normal FBW mode, primary flight controls are electrically controlled and moved by hydraulic power control units near each control surface. Three primary flight control computers, in which normal control laws reside, are available, with one providing FBW control and the other two acting as standbys. These computers receive input from pilot controls, air data and inertial reference systems, airplane configuration, and control surface position to properly actuate control surfaces.

Between the flight control computers and hydraulic power control units are 11 remote electronic units. These send commands from the flight control computers to the power control units and also the horizontal stabilizer motor control electronic unit.

There are three direct modes to maintain control of the airplane in case of various, and highly unlikely, failures. The primary flight control computers themselves can operate in direct mode if air data or inertial inputs become unavailable to any of the three computers.

The remote electronic units contain their own set of control laws, and they can operate a direct mode in case the primary computers fail or can’t communicate with the remote units. In this case, the pilot inputs bypass the flight control computers and go directly to the remote units.

Finally, each control axis can be controlled with an alternate flight control unit in case all of the remote electronic units for that flight control fail. In this case, only the control with the failed remote units would be operated by the alternate flight control unit; the other flight controls would continue operating normally.

For the pilot, it almost doesn’t matter what direct mode is driving the controls, but just what being in direct mode means for flying the airplane.

In normal mode, built-in protections are available. Pitch protections include load factor, pitch attitude, high angle-of-attack, overspeed, tail-strike reduction, and elevator surface command limiting.

Soft and hard pitch stops on the sidestick automatically limit positive and negative g loads in all configurations. Angle-of-attack limits are displayed on the PFD speed tape, with the soft limit showing as a half-red box above the solid red hard limit. Aural warnings start when speed remains below the soft limit for more than one second, culminating with continuous alerts and a stick shaker when speed remains below the soft limit. The FBW won’t allow the 7500 to slow below the hard limit, based on angle-of-attack. If excess thrust is available, the added power will keep the airplane from descending, but if there is no excess thrust available, then the FBW lowers angle-of-attack to prevent a stall.

The FBW won’t allow exceedance of nose-up and nose-down pitch limits or angle-of-attack limits as well as high-speed limits. Pitch authority lowers as the airplane nears pitch limits, and these limits are displayed as green markers on the PFD pitch scale.

Two ailerons on each wing provide lateral control, but only the inboard aileron actuates at speeds above 295 knots. Between 275 and 295 knots, the outboard aileron deflects proportionally less as speed increases. Below 275 knots, both ailerons move together. Multifunction spoilers assist the down wing during turns, and the spoiler deflection is reduced in primary flight control computer and remote electronic unit direct modes, with no spoiler deflection available in alternate flight control unit direct mode.

Roll and yaw axis protections include roll-rate limiting, bank-angle limiting, wing-maneuver-load alleviation, in-flight partial engine-out compensation, and rudder-surface-command limiting.

At up to 30 degrees of bank, the FBW automatically maintains the bank angle when the pilot lets go of the sidestick. Above 30 degrees, releasing the stick returns the bank angle to 30 degrees. Maximum bank angle is 80 degrees, and at maximum angle-of-attack, roll rate is lowered to 10 degrees per second from the normal 20 degrees.

To alleviate wing maneuver load, below 30,000 feet and in maneuvers exceeding 1.55 g, the FBW raises ailerons to reduce wing root bending.

Rudder surface commands are limited, depending on structural loads and handling requirements and they decrease as speed increases. During one-engine-out operations, the FBW automatically applies rudder toward the operating engine, but some yaw remains to help the pilot perceive the failure, and return to coordinated flight must be achieved by stepping on the operating-engine-side rudder.

Electrical failure is the big concern for FBW airplanes, but these designs must also meet stringent certification requirements for reliability. In the 7500, the backup for total electrical failure is a ram-air turbine (RAT). Normal FBW mode is maintained to as low as 110 knots, and below that, FBW reverts to direct mode.

The FBW system is powered by two FBW power converters, each of which is supplied by DC BUS 1 and 2. Permanent magnet generators on each engine supply backup power to the converters, which convert AC power from the two backup generators to DC for the FBW system.

Before the RAT would be needed, the two engine-driven variable-frequency generators would have to fail, followed by the APU generator, the two engine-driven permanent magnet generators, then the 28-amp-hour NiCad main ship and APU batteries.

Flying FBW

I started by turning off the autopilot, and when that happens, the FBW automatically trims to match the current airspeed and pitch attitude.

Moving the trim switches on the yoke changes the bugged airspeed on the PFD speed tape. Just like on a conventional airplane, if I want to fly faster than the trimmed speed, then I need to push forward on the sidestick, or pull to fly slower. But releasing the pressure returns it to the trimmed/bugged speed.

I flew some gentle turns to get the feel for the controls, and the 7500 was surprisingly responsive and easy to control precisely. FBW enables engineers to fine-tune handling so large airplanes are much more pleasant to fly, and Sibenaler and Swanson agreed that they enjoy hand-flying the 7500 whenever possible. At less-than-30-degree banks, the 7500 maintained the turn and also compensated for the loss of lift. I tried some steeper turns, which require back pressure to maintain altitude, then let go of the sidestick to see how it returned to 30 degrees.

For steep turns, I set the speed selector to 230 knots and trimmed the bug speed to match, so that the autothrottles would help maintain the selected airspeed. Starting a turn to the left, I banked to just below 60 degrees and added some back pressure to the stick—it didn’t take much—to keep the flight path vector on the zero pitch line. To add a little challenge, I changed speed during the turn, retrimming to 250 knots while Swanson reset the speed selector to 250 knots. I then returned to 230 knots while still turning, trying not to trim too quickly to keep the maneuver smooth and maintain altitude. I did the same in a steep turn to the right, and the 7500 responded promptly, making the maneuver a smooth exercise.

We then turned the autothrottles off and decelerated with the power levers at idle. “It takes a while to decelerate,” Swanson said. As the 7500 slowed below the autothrottle engagement speed or Vmin trim speed, the autothrottles engaged and moved to climb power briefly and accelerated the airspeed back to the 200-knot bugged speed as set on the airspeed tape. While this was happening, we had to turn to remain inside our cleared airspace, and we could see that during the turn the Vmin trim speed climbed as the lift vector moved away from vertical. The same happened to Vmin trim speed as I deployed the spoilers; there was zero rumble or change in attitude while the spoilers extended and retracted, and I could move them as fast as I wanted thanks to the FBW system.

Next came configuration changes, starting with the flaps 1 setting, which just extends the wing slats to 22 degrees. I did some turns at 200 knots with slats extended, then we slowed to 160 knots and added flaps 2 then slowed to 140 knots and extended flaps 3 and finally stopped slowing down at 118 knots with full flaps and landing gear down. This was about five knots above Vref for our weight. The handling felt just as crisp as in any other configuration, and the 7500 flies hands-off when trimmed. “It’s amazingly stable,” Swanson said. “This is what it’s going to feel like on approach.” There was a small amount of rumble with full flaps and landing gear down, and a bit more noise.

To replicate getting too slow in the traffic pattern, I turned to the left at a 45-degree bank and pulled the sidestick back to the soft stop. As we slowed to the half-red box on the airspeed tape, we heard the “speed” aural alert, but the airplane just remained stable in the turn while the autothrottles prevented the jet from slowing further. “It’s pretty benign,” he said. “It’s hard to mismanage the airplane.”

I wanted to feel the 7500’s handling in a one-engine-out situation, so we next slowed to 160 knots with flaps 2, and turned the autothrottles off, then pulled the right power lever to idle. There was little feel of any yaw as the FBW compensated for the “dead” engine. The 7500 is certified to fly with autothrottle on for the good engine, so I switched this back on the for left engine, and power advanced to maintain the selected speed.

Before returning to Stewart, I practiced some hand-flying at varying speeds in clean configuration, changing trim settings and setting power manually just to get some more feel for the 7500’s handling.

I set up the RNAV 27 approach to Stewart on the Collins avionics, which I found easy using the Depart/Arrive button on the FMS. This pulls up the destination airport and a selection of arrivals and approaches that I could choose from using the cursor control device.

An Interior Peek

After I swapped places again with Sibenaler, I went for a walk in the quiet cabin, which is equipped with 14 seats. Adding to the low-noise environment is the lack of traditional gaspers for passengers. Instead, Bombardier designed a retractable gasper that generates less noise. The GE Passport engines are almost impossible to hear throughout most of the cabin and on the flight deck, not only because of the excellent soundproofing but also the engines’ integral “blisk” integrated fan disk. Cabin air is 100 percent fresh and flows through a HEPA filter and another filter with activated carbon. Heating and cooling is comfortable and provides speedier temperature changes, thanks to Bombardier’s “turbo” heat and cool environmental system. At FL450, the cabin altitude is 4,500 feet.

Opposite the kitchen is a crew rest area with its own monitor and two large windows. Bunk beds can be installed if needed, but it looks more comfortable in the normal single-occupant configuration. The kitchen is huge, with more than enough storage space as well as two large chiller drawers and a big trash receptacle. There is enough room also for both a coffee maker and espresso machine. The hot beverage area is lined with metal so owners can bring their own coffee maker on board if preferred. This 7500 features two ovens, a microwave/convection oven on top and below that a convection/steam oven. A retractable faucet pulls down into the sink so the sink can be fully covered when not needed. The forward lavatory is aft of the galley, so passengers using that lav don’t have to walk past the flight attendant.

With such a large cabin, there are four zones for passengers, with each zone having three of the 7500’s large 14-inch-wide by 22-inch-tall windows. Zone 1 starts with four of Bombardier’s Nuage seats in club configuration.

Bombardier engineers spent seven years developing the Nuage (French for “cloud”) seats and divans, and these are a key feature in the 7500. What is new about the Nuage configuration is that when the seat back is reclined, the seat pan on which the passenger sits dips down in the rear, allowing for more body contact with the seat when reclined and thus helping muscles relax more. The Nuage seat’s headrest tilts as well as raises and lowers, and this allows the passenger to adjust the headrest to the right angle to maximize comfort at the correct spot at the head-neck junction. The seats also sit on a “floating base” swivel mechanism, which eliminates traditional seat rails and keeps the center of gravity of the seat and occupant directly over the center swivel axis. One control on the forward right armrest allows the passenger to move fore and aft, sideways, and to swivel.

The next zone features an asymmetrical conference grouping, with two-one seating configurations opposite each other. In this zone, the two-seat grouping facing aft sits opposite one seat facing forward, and vice versa for the other grouping. Each grouping has an unusually shaped table between the seats, and the shape’s purpose is evident when the center leaf is installed, making a large dining or conference table in this zone. Of course, when the leaf is installed, it blocks passage fore and aft, but with two lavatories, this isn’t a problem.

The Nuage divan in zone 3 sits opposite a credenza holding a 40-inch monitor, making it a comfortable entertainment suite. Doors close off this zone so other occupants won’t hear the excellent sound from the Lufthansa Technik nice Touch cabin management system. The bottom of the divan slides out to provide more comfort for viewing movies, and it also turns into a bed. A unique Bombardier feature with the Touch system is the OLED retractable side-ledge dial nestled within the side-ledge at each seat, providing touch control of functions within the passenger’s immediate environment.

The nice Touch system runs on a high-bandwidth fiber-optic backbone, with two wireless 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi access points, USB 3.0 ports at every seat, and three Bluetooth 4.0 modules. The USB ports enable passengers to charge devices or transfer content either to or from the airplane. The system includes two media centers that provide on-demand audio and video in any zone and aggregate media content. 

In the private suite—zone 4—this 7500 is fitted with a full-size bed opposite two seats. A queen bed is an option, but that would take up some room in the center of the zone walkway. The lavatory can be equipped with an optional shower.

Global 7500 interior
(Photo: Matt Thurber)

With all-LED lighting throughout, there are many options available for preset cabin lighting, ranging from ordinary to dynamic schemes tied into the airplane’s FMS. One preset, for example, mimics the outside lighting experience, which changes minute-to-minute as the sun moves through the sky, with clouds occasionally filtering the light, and the position of the sun changing relative to the horizon. Another preset illuminates upper lights in the cabin as passengers board, then turns on side lights as they sit down.

Of course, a variety of interior configurations and materials are available—up to 10,000, according to Bombardier—making moot the question of whether the 7500 is customizable. All completions are being done by Bombardier at its Montreal facility.

What some might consider the most important part of a cabin is airborne connectivity, and the 7500 comes standard with Bombardier’s Wave satcom (the Honeywell JetWave system that runs on Inmarsat’s ka-band satellite network).

In the rear, the large baggage compartment is accessible at any altitude up to the 51,000-foot maximum as it is located outside of the engine rotor-burst zone.

Final Approach

I returned to the jumpseat, then Sibenaler flew the landing, demonstrating the 7500’s automatic elevator nose-down feature after touchdown. All the pilot has to do during touchdown is leave the sidestick alone, and the nose automatically and smoothly lowers. The landing was smooth, despite the winds, which were still gusting above 30 knots.

Having flown a variety of FBW business jets, this flight in the Global 7500 more than piqued my interest, and I would like to spend more time exploring its many features. For a large airplane, it is easy to fly and will be a relatively simple transition for experienced Bombardier Global pilots.

The 7500 ups the ante in performance and range, and at the Mach .85 long-range cruise speed, can fly legs such as New York-Hong Kong, London-Singapore, and Dubai-Los Angeles. At a base list price of $72.8 million, Bombardier expects to deliver 15-20 Global 7500s during 2019, and the model is sold out until 2021. NetJets holds an order for 20 Global 7500s and 8000s, and will take delivery of its first 7500 in 2021.