Bombardier will offer airlines a
two-step fix for a flap failure issue that last week prompted US and Canadian
authorities to place operational restrictions on CRJ100s and CRJ200s.
Authorities have been aware of the
flap failure problem on the 40- to 50-seat CRJs for a long time. However, the problem was
elevated from a nuisance to a safety issue last winter in Canada
after a CRJ200 nearly ran out of fuel. The flight had diverted to a different
airport with its flaps stuck in a deployed position, which burned fuel at a
higher rate because of the increased drag.
The US FAA’s airworthiness directive
issued on August 21 indicated that cold weather is a cause of the mechanical
“We have some improvements through
the fall which will fix this problem and we have a permanent fix that we would
expect to certify by early [fourth quarter],” said Laurent Beaudoin, Bombardier’s chairman and chief executive.
“But we don’t think it will have an impact on costs.”
Speaking to analysts and journalists
during a second-quarter earnings teleconference, Beaudoin declined to elaborate on the technical
specifics for either step. But he said the first step “will essentially make
this problem go away”. The second step is a complete redesign of the flaps and
will be certified within the next few months.
Neither step is expected to
significantly increase costs for the airlines or the manufacturer. “We don’t
think there will be any material impact outside the normal course of business,”
Separately, Beaudoin confirmed for the first time that
Bombardier is studying options to boost production of CRJ700/900/1000s back to
peak levels – one aircraft assembled every three days.
The company has already announced a
plan to ramp up production from one aircraft every five days to one aircraft
every four days starting in February 2008. But the company also is considering
the possibility of returning to the even faster peak rate, he said.
Bombardier’s business jet deliveries
also remained flat for the first half of this year despite rising demand for
corporate aircraft. This was partly blamed on the transfer of manufacturing
from the Challenger 604 to the Challenger 605 large cabin jet. Beaudoin explained that “we have
had some production issues also on the 605”, but did not elaborate.