CSeries enters critical fly-by-wire testing period

Washington DC
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The Bombardier CSeries has entered a critical series of tests on the aircraft's fly-by-wire system that represent the final hurdle to completing first flight on schedule by late June.

"So far, so good," Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey told an investors day audience on 21 March, as he rapped his knuckles on a wooden podium.

"I'm going to feel better in six weeks, eight weeks from now," Hachey says. "So far, everything we have found we have managed within the timelines we have."

Since Bombardier unveiled a nearly structurally complete flight test vehicle on 7 March, the status of the CSeries fly-by-wire flight controls has been the key risk area on the programme, Hachey says.

"If I look at the one area we're watching the most closely is this testing we're doing in the ground," he adds.

The CSeries marks Bombardier's first foray into the realm of a fly-by-wire system that controls the aircraft in three axes.

Company officials are seeking to avoid the software glitches on the rudder-only fly-by-wire system on the CRJ1000, which grounded the aircraft for several months shortly after beginning flight tests in 2009.

Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins have tested the more elaborate CSeries fly-by-wire system that controls the aircraft's rudder, elevator and ailerons as an isolated component.

Bombardier is now testing the fly-by-wire controls in the CSeries integrated systems test and certification rig (ISTCR), also known as Aircraft 0, allowing engineers to see how it functions in a complete aircraft system on the ground. The tests will likely continue through the end of April or early May.

"We've done so much testing we're not anticipating a huge problem," Hachey says. "But it would be foolish for me to say that we know everything."

Preparing the aircraft for first flight after the fly-by-wire testing is complete would be a straightforward process, Hachey says.

The first flight test vehicle (FTV-1) has completed testing of the structural integrity of the wing, including exceeding the tolerance limits for up-bending and down-bending each wing, Hachey says.

Power-on has been expected for two weeks, but is delayed as a result of seven faulty connectors discovered in the wiring system, he says. Power-on is now scheduled for the end of March.

Meanwhile, Bombardier has attached the wings for FTV-3 and begun assembly of FTV-4 mid-fuselage and wings, Hachey says. Bombardier plans to deliver a new aircraft every month after flight testing begins, to complete the flight test fleet of five aircraft by October. First delivery to an unidentified launch customer is scheduled in mid-2014.