Bombardier's eagerly anticipated Global 7500 business jet was awarded Canadian type certification on 28 September, capping a largely uneventful two-year flight-test campaign for the ultra-long-range twin that saw over 2,700h logged by five aircraft.
Deliveries of the GE Aviation Passport-powered aircraft, previously known as the Global 7000, are set to begin later this year when European and US approvals are also expected.
At a ceremony at its Dorval, Montreal completion facility to mark the Transport Canada validation, Bombardier Business Aircraft president David Coleal described the milestone as a "defining moment" and a "significant accomplishment" for the company, which launched the programme in 2010.
"Thanks to the rigour and innovation of our design and test programme, the Global 7500 has succeeded in elevating every standard by which a business jet is measured – comfort, luxury, performance and a smooth ride," says Coleal.
"At entry into service, this aircraft will meet the latest, and all of the most stringent certification requirements and is set to redefine international business jet travel. We couldn't be more proud of this achievement," he adds.
Bombardier's flagship was rebranded as the Global 7500 in May, to reflect a 300nm (560km) jump in maximum operating range during flight testing to 7,700nm. This market-leading figure opens new, nonstop city pairs, such as New York-Hong Kong and Singapore-San Francisco.
Aside from the long-range performance, Bombardier claims the Global 7500 has a take-off and landing capability that rivals light jets, enabling access to airports with short runways. The jet's new published take-off distance is 1,770m (5,800ft) in standard operating conditions.
The low-speed aerodynamics of the Triumph-built wing mean the Global 7500 can land "effortlessly" at steep-approach airports, such as London City in the UK, it adds.
With the longest cabin in the market at 16.5m (54ft) – about 2.5m more than its closest competitor, the Gulfstream G650ER – Bombardier says the Global 7500 is the only aircraft in its segment with "four customisable living areas". It usually presents the additional space as being suitable for an "entertainment zone", distinct from the master bedroom and the two lounge areas at the front.
"This aircraft literally raises the bar at the top of the business jet market," says aerospace analyst Rolland Vincent. He points to the Global 7500's "impressive" suite of technologies, including fly-by-wire architecture, combined vision system in the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion-based Vision cockpit, a Nice Touch cabin management system developed exclusively for the Global 7500 by Lufthansa Technik and "all of the comforts of a four-room apartment plus kitchen at an altitude of 51,000ft and a maximum speed of Mach 0.925".
Vincent says this top-of-the-range model is an attempt by Bombardier to seize the high ground, in what he describes as an "ongoing battle for supremacy against its long-time nemesis", Gulfstream.
"The Global 7500 represents an all-in bet that they can do just that: the wing, the big cabin, the bespoke interior arrangements, and the airfield performance are what truly set this aircraft apart from the G650ER," he says. However, the 7,500nm-range Gulfstream does have a head-start on its rival, having entered service nearly four years ago and already boasting a global fleet of around 300 examples.
Bombardier says the Global 7500 is sold out through 2021, which represents an order backlog of around 110 aircraft, according to Vincent. He describes this total as "impressive" for an aircraft with a list price of about $75 million.
Flight Fleets Analyzer records deliveries of around 800 Global-series business jets since the first example of the long-range and super-large business jet family – the Global Express – entered service 21 years ago. The current line-up includes the Global 5000 and 6000, and the in-development 5500 and 6500, launched in May with Rolls-Royce Pearl engines and scheduled to enter service in 2019.
Bombardier averages about 40 Global deliveries a year, says Vincent, adding that these high-end jets "literally pay the bills for the business aircraft division, and then some".
With the Global 5500, 6500, and 7500 all set to enter service in the short term, Vincent expects Bombardier to "accelerate deliveries" to between 90 and 100 Globals a year by 2021. "The Global 7500 will reach deliveries of four units a month, and higher again if sales to large fractional ownership and charter fleet buyers can be secured," he notes.
Known customers include: Hong Kong management firm HK Bellawings Jet, which has orders and options for 18 Global 6500/7500s; NetJets – the world's largest fractional provider – which will take up to 20 Global 7500s; and Thomas Flohr, founder of luxury charter provider VistaJet, who has a deal to purchase up to 30 units, with first delivery scheduled at the end of 2019.
The Global 7500 has a vital role in Bombardier's corporate strategy, and has become even more important since July, when Airbus became the majority shareholder in the CSeries small narrowbody airliner programme.
"They have made two big bets on the future of civil aerospace, and one is now in the hands of another airframer," says Vincent. While Bombardier no longer controls the CSeries, Airbus has provided a "tremendous validation" of the company’s design, development, and certification capabilities, he says.
"Bombardier sees a much better business case for investing in the business jet market, with higher margins, stronger pricing, and a path to being number one in the segment."
The Canadian airframer has nine models in its business jet line-up. At the bottom of its range, the slow-selling Learjet 70/75 light jets are now undergoing a flightdeck upgrade to help stimulate sales, while the Challenger family – the super-midsize 350 and large-cabin 650 – are strong contenders for another cabin and cockpit refresh.
Bombardier insists the 7,900nm-range Global 8000 continues to be part of its development programme and says details of the aircraft schedule "will be communicated" once deliveries of the Global 7500 have ramped up following entry into service.
But Vincent is unconvinced there is a market for this aircraft in its current form, given its much shorter cabin – 13.89m against 16.59m – and only 200nm difference in range over the Global 7500.
"There has been very little customer interest in this aircraft so far," he says. "The 8000’s cabin is 9ft shorter than the 7500's, which, when combined with the space required at the front of the cabin for crew, makes for a three-zone layout, and quite a step down from the 7500's interior," he says.
The question for Bombardier therefore becomes whether the appetite for an aircraft capable of flying 7,900nm justifies the additional expense required to bring it to market.
"It would be difficult for Bombardier to justify the extra research and development investment, given the long return on investment payback period for what looks to be an aircraft that would have a relatively low production volume," Vincent argues.
Source: Flight International