Bombardier adds caveats to CSeries first flight timeline

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Bombardier executives added some new caveats to their drive to make the first CSeries test aircraft achieve its first flight by the end of the year today.

The Montreal-based airframer has stood by its four-year-old schedule to clear the first flight milestone by the end of 2012 for months, even as it has acknowledged that its buffer margin had disappeared by last December.

Questions about the timing of the first flight event were asked repeatedly by journalists and analysts on 19 June, during an all-day briefing session at Bombardier headquarters.

For the most part, Bombardier stuck to its message that the schedule remains for the first CS100 flight test vehicle to complete structural assembly and safety-of-flight testing by December, allowing the programme a full month to complete taxi tests and make the aircraft fly.

But company executives, including the new president of Bombardier Aerospace Mike Arcomone, were careful to caveat the first flight schedule with new loopholes.

Arcomone emphasises that it is more important for the CSeries customers for the programme to achieve the entry into service milestones rather than the schedule for its first flight. Bombardier now has 18 months to go to deliver the first CS100 to an undisclosed launch customer in late 2013. Delivery of the first CS300 is scheduled to follow in 2014.

Moreover, Bombardier's CSeries programme manager Rob Dewar notes that he will not know for sure when the aircraft will be available for its first flight until at least the end of the third quarter.

"We'll be able to confirm by then if things are going as expected," Dewar says.

Bombardier plans to commission all non-structural systems by the end of this month in Aircraft 0, also known as the complete integrated aircraft systems test area (CIASTA). Testing has not raised any major issues so far.

Arcomone also showed several pictures of completed structural components of the first flight test aircraft, including the nose, forward fuselage, mid-fuselage, wings, aft fuselage, empennage and vertical stabiliser. Missing only from the list of pictures was a completed horizontal stabiliser, which is being provided by Alenia Aermacchi.