"It'll fly when it's ready", as goes the perennial line from aerospace leaders about the maiden flight of new aircraft.
In a wide-ranging interview yesterday, Stephen Trimble and myself sat down with CSeries vice president and general manager Rob Dewar, covering what's ahead as the CS100, the aircraft maker's first clean sheet commercial aircraft design, pushes toward its goal of flying at the end of 2012 and entering service late next year with its undisclosed launch customer.
The margin for error is gone, acknowledged Commercial Aerospace president Guy Hachey, during October's National Business Aviation Association in Las Vegas, so hitting every note over the next 24 months is the path to meeting the schedule. Though CEO Pierre Beaudoin says a three to six month slip to the first half of 2014 falls within the realm of acceptable delays.
CIASTA - the Complete Integrated Aircraft Systems Test Area - Bombardier's "iron bird" began commissioning systems late in December, with its Aircraft 0 beginning tests on the pedestal, throttle quadrant and FADEC software. That activation is the first of many systems that will come to life inside CIASTA over the first quarter of this year.
What makes CIASTA different from other "iron bird" systems integration rigs is Bombardier's emphasis on having every non-fuel system running inside the building. On one side of the facility, accounting for 90% of the aircraft's systems, is the hydraulics, avionics, electrics and primary flight controls, known as the Integrated Systems Test and Certification Rig (ISTCR).
On the other, a complete cabin systems and Environmental Control System (ECS) demonstrator with pressurization, heating, cooling, lighting and cabin management systems, accompanied by smaller test laboratories and a CAE-supplied engineering simulator.
The on-site expansiveness exceeds that of both the Boeing's 787 Integrated Test Vehicle (ITV) (pdf) and Airbus's Aircraft 0 iron bird.
"This is really the first time someone has really made sure we integrated all the systems, all the software in a real aircraft production configuration in one building," said Dewar, who says 4,800h of testing are planned for the facility.
In short, CIASTA is a structureless reproduction of the the CS100.
Moving toward production of the first "structured" CS100, the static test airframe will be first to inaugurate its final assembly facilities, which will eventually be sized for a rate of 20 aircraft per month or one aircraft per manufacturing day. The center wing box for that aircraft, called the Complete Aircraft Static (CAS) test article has been delivered to its Belfast, Northern Ireland facility.
At Mirabel Airport's final assembly line, Dewar says the plastic comes off of the first set of tooling next week and all its tools will be in place later in the quarter.
After the static airframe, Bombardier will build five test aircraft dubbed its Flight Test Vehicles (FTV). FTV1 will be the first 100 to 125-seat CS100 to fly around year's end, kicking off a 2,400h flight test program. Part of its certification trials will include a 180min extended operations (ETOPS) certification for over-water flights, such as those connecting London City Airport and New York.
Such a mission was part of the initial requirements for the CSeries, and the aircraft maker confirmed it is in "advanced discussions" with a customer for an all-business class layout.
The CS300, due in 2014, will add two additional FTVs for certification of the stretched jet.
With its late-2013 first handover planned, CSeries production will see a gradual ramp up, delivering 40 aircraft in 2014, 80 in 2015 and 120 in 2016. Delivery slots for 2014 and 2015 are both sold out and 2016's positions are 60% booked.
Photos Credit Bombardier