CSeries assembly compressed to meet first flight target

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Bombardier plans to meet a year-end deadline for CSeries first flight by compressing a five-month final assembly process to four months, although it also has a back-up plan to deliver the first CS100 on schedule in late-2013 if final assembly is delayed.

Final assembly of the first flight-test airframe, FTV-1, is scheduled to begin in September, or within four months of Bombardier's first flight deadline of 1 January, says Rob Dewar, vice-president and general manager of the CSeries.

The process of assembling the fuselage, wing and systems together should "typically" take about five months for the flight test vehicles, but Bombardier is hoping to accelerate that timeline.

The programme has little margin for error in its schedule. Entry into service is expected to follow 12 months after first flight, with the completion of a 12-month flight test programme consuming 2,400 flight hours.

Bombardier has already signaled the industry to not be disappointed if the CSeries' first flight-test milestone is delayed. Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, told reporters and analysts on 19 June to focus on the deadline for entry-into-service, noting the company has 18 months to achieve that milestone.

Bombardier's back-up plan to deliver the first production aircraft on time hinges on the performance of Aircraft Zero, a highly-integrated "iron bird" in the airframer's completed aircraft integrated systems test area.

Aircraft Zero integrates a fully-functional flight control system with roll, pitch and yaw axes for both left- and right-hand sides of the airframe, using hydraulic actuators to simulate normal flight loads on the control surfaces. The test rig includes all of the CSeries major systems, including landing gear, avionics, hydraulics and electrical systems.

Bombardier has agreed in principle with certification authorities to receive certification credit for more than 20,000h of planned simulations aboard Aircraft Zero, Dewar says, but the details are still being negotiated.

Any amount of credit awarded to the Aircraft Zero simulations would reduce the number of flight hours required for certification, he adds, and indicates that the programme could use such credits to offset any delays to the first flight schedule.