Seeking to significantly de-risk its already squeezed CSeries aircraft program, Bombardier has begun commissioning and activating systems on Aircraft 0, its iron bird systems validator part of its complete integrated aircraft systems test area (CIASTA) at its Mirabel, Quebec facility outside of Montreal.
Just prior to the 25 December Christmas holiday, Bombardier commissioned its first block of systems which included the aircraft's flight deck pedestal, throttle quadrant and Full Digital Authority Engine Control (FADEC) software, connected to generators and dummy engines.
The first system is "up and running" and it "went better than expected, which is unusual" for such an early test, said Rob Dewar, CSeries programme vice president and general manager.
Aircraft 0 is split between two primary test areas in the 5,760sq m (62,000sq ft) CIASTA complex and represents the "absolute exact geometry" of a CS100 aircraft without any structure, said Dewar.
Bombardier plans to conduct 4,800h of testing on CIASTA for the CSeries initial certification, running 20h per day, seven days per week. Four hours each day will be dedicated to maintenance and troubleshooting if necessary.
Integration laboratories are commonplace for validating hardware and software before installation on a flight test airframe, though Dewar says CIASTA's scope goes far beyond what other commercial aircraft manufacturers have done.
"This is really the first time someone has really made sure we integrated all the systems, all the software in a real aircraft production configuration in one building," he said, citing Boeing's 787 Integrated Test Vehicle (ITV) which tied together only select systems and integrated virtually test laboratories developed at suppliers.
On one side, representing approximately 90% of the aircraft's "hard" systems is the Integrated Systems Test and Certification Rig (ISTCR), which includes production equivalent parts and software for the primary flight controls, hydraulics, avionics and electrics.
Dewar says the systems will all be commissioned during the first quarter, including the company's first fully fly-by-wire flight control systems, which are currently running at supplier Parker Hannifin in California.
On the other side, accounting for 10% of the aircraft's systems, Bombardier has established the Environmental Cabin Systems (ECS) to test the CSeries cabin heating, cooling, lighting, pressurisation and cabin management system.
The ECS rig will be commissioned after the ISTCR as the cabin systems integration trials will come "a little later" as the flight test program will fly the first cabin configuration on the fifth of five Flight Test Vehicles (FTV).
By effectively splitting Aircraft 0 into two parts, Bombardier has "done that to really be able to develop both of those systems in parallel," said Dewar.
CIASTA also features an Engineering Simulator (ESIM) supplied by CAE, Systems Integration Test Stand (SITS) and Flight Controls Integration Lab (FCIL) positioned near the ECS rig and cabin systems.
Dewar said CIASTA will operate throughout the life of the CSeries programme to provide system maturity and to continually develop the aircraft's capability.
The 110-seat CS100 is slated to enter service at the end of 2013, followed by the larger 130-seat CS300 in 2014.