Bombardier-Comac tie-up will involve more changes to C919 cockpit

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A partnership between Bombardier and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) to explore commonalities on their CSeries and C919 aircraft will involve more changes to the C919's cockpit than to that of the CSeries.

This is because the CSeries programme, set for first flight this year, is in a more advanced stage of progress, says Benjamin Boehm, Bombardier Aerospace's VP of international business and head of Bombardier Aerospace China.

"Both parties [Bombardier and Comac] recognise that," he tells Flightglobal Pro. Comac's C919 is scheduled for first flight in 2014 and first delivery in 2016.

The two airframers signed a definitive agreement yesterday, committing to work together to establish commonalities in four areas across the two aircraft programmes. One of the four areas is to work on commonalities in the cockpit crew interfaces on the two aircraft.

This will involve making the look and feel of the C919 cockpit similar to that of the CSeries, says Boehm, who believes this will reduce training and maintenance costs for airlines that purchase the aircraft.

Boehm declines to comment on the extent or specifics of the changes that will be made to the C919 cockpit, saying that it would be inappropriate to comment on behalf of Comac.

A Comac spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

However, Boehm believes the project will not result in extensive changes to the systems on either aircraft, saying that it will focus more on "how the pilots interact with the systems".

The C919 programme completed its joint definition process late last year and is now in the detailed design process. The tie-up with Bombardier will not involve a re-doing of the joint definition process, says Boehm, who adds that it is still early enough in the C919 aircraft's development to make changes.

Rockwell Collins is supplying its integrated avionics system, called Fusion, to the CSeries. The supplier is also providing the communication, navigation and surveillance systems for the C919. GE Aviation is supplying the core processing system, cockpit display systems, on-board maintenance systems and flight recorders for the Chinese aircraft. Both Rockwell Collins and GE Aviation are offering the C919 work in partnership with local Chinese suppliers, as required by state-owned Comac.

Bombardier and Comac will both bear the costs of the agreement firmed up yesterday, says Boehm. The Canadian airframer also plans to send engineers to China to advise Comac, but he reiterates that the deal is bilateral and Comac will send staff to Canada as well.

Asked about the benefits to the CSeries programme, Boehm says they are the same benefits that will be reaped by Comac. "If the C919 cockpit has the same look as ours, it will bring benefits to our future customers," he says.