Bombardier looks to avoid Boeing mistakes through early CSeries tests

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Hoping to avoid repeating the mistakes of other manufacturers of new-design aircraft Bombardier is putting its first CSeries fuselage test barrel through rigorous testing that will simulate three aircraft lives, and allow the airframer to learn what is and is not working well in advance of formal flight testing.

"The point of this [barrel] is that it is a technology demonstrator so it's meant to purely mitigate some of the risks you see like on the Boeing [787] airplane, where there is new technology," Bombardier vice-president commercial aircraft programmes Ben Boehm told ATI during a telephone interview today.

Boehm says the highly intense testing, which will involve running the CSeries barrel through 180,000 cycles of pressure, wing bending and torsions - the equivalent of roughly one thousand simulated flights per day - represents "an extra step that Bombardier has added in to really ensure that we can really deliver an airplane in 2013".

The Canadian airframer yesterday took delivery of the barrel from the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) plant that will be responsible for producing the centre fuselage of the CSeries, which features aluminum alloys.

"We were extremely pleased with the quality [of the barrel]. SAC actually delivered two weeks early. And we've actually already started the learning process in that the assembly teams that built the test barrel have already started meeting with the engineers to debrief on how the assembly went, so we're already learning just from the building of this thing," says Boehm.

The barrel testing will take place at Bombardier's St Laurent facility, outside of Montreal. "We'll mount it into the test rig, install the sensors and the actuators, so it will probably start cycling through late this fall," says Boehm.

Separate to this testing, a new Bombardier plant in Mirabel will house a virtual CSeries aircraft that will be created by linking all the aircraft systems and components and running them for the equivalent of some two years of flight test activity. CAE is working with Bombardier to create this virtual aircraft, which Bombardier calls its "complete integrated aircraft systems test aircraft (CIASTA)".

Groundbreaking on the CIASTA building is slated to occur this fall. Bombardier has selected a firm to build the structure, although its identity has been kept confidential thus far.

"All of our systems suppliers are involved in the testing involved in CIASTA," says Boehm, adding that by 2011 the simulated aircraft will be "virtually flying" and in use one year ahead of actual flight tests on the first CSeries testbed, a CS100.