Attention turns to production and enhancement as Bombardier anticipates certification

Bombardier is preparing to begin final assembly of the first CRJ900 regional jet for launch customer Mesa Airlines, as flight testing of the stretched 86-seat aircraft winds down ahead of anticipated certification this summer. Attention is now turning to follow- on flight testing of performance improvements and qualification of additional systems.

The Canadian manufacturer is following a comparatively conservative development and production timetable, partly because of its experience with the entry into service of the earlier CRJ700 and its need for post-production modifications. "We decided not to put the aircraft into production until there were no more changes," says Jean-Guy Blondin, CRJ700/900 programme manager.

Flight testing in Wichita, Kansas, is to conclude by the end of June, with Transport Canada certification of the CRJ900 and associated Level C flight simulator expected in the third quarter. The first Bombardier-built CRJ900 wing and cockpit sections have been delivered to its new Mirabel plant. The first centre fuselage from the company's Northern Ireland plant will arrive next month. Final assembly will start in early September.

Blondin hopes to deliver the first aircraft to Mesa's America West Express operation in January, ahead of its contractual schedule. Bombardier has no plans for a rapid production ramp-up and will deliver just 12 aircraft in the first year of service, all to Mesa. The Phoenix-based carrier has ordered 20 aircraft and GE Capital Aviation Services has 10 on firm order.

The aircraft will be certificated at the CRJ900ER's higher maximum take-off weight of 37,400kg (82,500lb), although the baseline model will operate at 36,500kg. Follow-on testing will include an increase to 38,300kg for the CRJ900LR within 12 months, giving it a maximum range of 3,590km (1,940nm). A software update is planned for the anti-skid system. Additional tests will cover provision of a Category IIIA head-up display and ensure the aircraft meets reduced vertical separation minima standards.

Source: Flight International