Bombardier unveils two-step solution for CRJ flap failures

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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 issue.

“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,” Beaudoin said.

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.