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EBACE: Bombardier renames largest business jet Global 7500

The Global 7000 is no more. Five years after its launch, and 18 months after first flight, the Bombardier flagship making its EBACE debut on the static display tomorrow is from today being rebranded as the Global 7500. The new name reflects its longer endurance – although the fact that the maximum operating range has officially been acknowledged in flight testing to have jumped from 7,400nm (13,700km) to 7,700nm does rather confuse matters.

What is important to the Canadian airframer is that the Global 7500 now trumps arch-long-distance-rival the Gulfstream G650ER in terms of how far it can fly. Savannah advertises the G650ER's maximum range, under the same conditions, as 7,500nm.

The future of the even longer-range Global 8000 remains unclear. Orders for this variant – launched at the same time as the Global 7500 – have been extremely slow, and while Bombardier insists the smaller variant is still an "active programme", there are no firm plans to develop flight-test aircraft.

OPEN QUESTION

How much the Global 7500’s range gives it a sales-clinching edge over its competitors in a market where customers tend to be extremely brand-loyal is a moot point. Only a small number of missions flown by ultra-long-range aircraft are anywhere near their maximum endurance, and having to stop to refuel on a 16h flight might not be the most unwelcome diversion for operator, crew or passengers.

However, Bombardier says the type – due to enter service in the second half of the year – opens new nonstop city pairs, such as New York to Hong Kong, and Singapore-San Francisco. It believes this will be a unique selling point for high-net-worth individuals whose business takes them between such cities, and where time saved on a direct flight is worth paying for.

Moreover, offering the longest range in the market, if nothing else, lends credence to other performance claims. These include a take-off and landing capability that rivals light jets and enables the Global 7500 to access airports with short runways, claims Bombardier. The jet's new published take-off distance is 1,770m (5,800ft) in standard operating conditions.

The low-speed aerodynamics of the wing also mean that, unlike some of its competitors, the aircraft can land "effortlessly" at steep-approach airfields, such as London City, it adds. "In addition to the extended range, we're extremely proud of how the aircraft behaves," says Stephen McCullough, the chief engineer on the programme. "It flies just like it did in the simulator."

With the longest cabin in the market at 16.5m (54ft), about 2.5m more than the G650 and 3.5m longer than the Dassault Falcon 8X, Bombardier claims 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.

NEW FEATURES

There is also a "full-size kitchen" (Bombardier prefers the term to "galley"), as well as a raft of other cabin innovations, several of which are being announced at the show. Bombardier expects most Global 7500s to be configured with a shower – a rare feature on other Globals because of the expense of fitting one to types that rarely fly longer than 6-7h.

The aircraft on show at EBACE is one of five test vehicles. While the example that made its air show debut at NBAA 2017 was the fourth flight-test examples, with a production-representative interior, the one in Geneva was the first to fly. That aircraft's flight-test campaign is essentially over, as Bombardier crosses the final hurdles towards the programme's certification.

Of the other four, FTV2 still has a few fuel systems tests to complete. FTV3 – which was focused on avionics testing – is on its final approvals. Bombardier has used FTV4 to validate the interior. FTV5, which flew for the first time in January, is the production configuration example, and is in the last stages of approval by the certification authorities, says McCullough.

The Global 7500 is sharing the EBACE limelight with a Global 6000 – equipped with the new Global 7000-inspired cabin Bombardier launched for the Global 6000 and 5000 at Geneva last year. A Challenger 650 and 350, and a Learjet 75 complete the line-up. While the Global 7500 at EBACE this week is the real thing, because it is an early flight-test example, visitors to the exhibit will not be able to experience the cabin as they did at Singapore in February and Dubai last November, where Bombardier displayed the full-scale cabin mock-up – although offsite rather than at the shows themselves.

A flame-out incident on one of the FTV2 GE Aviation Passport engines last August was one of the few glitches in a flight-test campaign of more than 2,000h that has gone pretty smoothly since the first sortie in November 2016. Described by Bombardier and the engine manufacturer at the time as an "isolated event", the flight-test fleet was flying again two days later.

The Global 7000, however, will enter service two years later than originally planned at launch in 2013. In 2015, the airframer announced the delay, blaming unspecified development "challenges".

Production of customer versions of the Global 7500 has been under way since early last year at Bombardier’s Downsview, Toronto plant. Completion will take place at Dorval in Montreal in an area originally earmarked for the other Global types. Outfitting of the Global 5000 is currently being transferred to the manufacturer’s US facility in Wichita, Kansas, where completions for the Learjet 70/75 already take place.

Meanwhile, Global 6000 completions will move to another hall at Dorval by the end of the year. Bombardier has been recruiting to fill about 1,000 new positions on the Global 7500 completion line as output ramps up. Although Bombardier will not say how many orders it has for its newest jet, it has confirmed that production is sold out until at least 2021.

Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare noted earlier this year that output would "mature" between 2020 and 2021 at around 40 deliveries a year, adding: "We’ll go with market demand. If there's more, we’ll take it from that point." While an impressive tally, however, 40 aircraft falls far short of the more than 80 combined deliveries of the smaller Global 5000 and 6000 Bombardier was making every year until 2016. That has now declined to about 50.

That said, as the flagship of Bombardier Business Aircraft, the Global 7500 plays a vital role in the company's corporate strategy, perhaps becoming even more important last October when Airbus and Bombardier announced a plan to create a joint company with the Quebec government to manufacture and market the CSeries commercial airliner. When the deal closes, the European company will become the majority shareholder in the narrowbody programme.

That leaves the Global 7500 as the largest aircraft under Bombardier's control – its fuselage is only 1m shorter than the CS100, with a 3.4m narrower wingspan. While the engine provider differs – the CSeries is powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan – the two programmes share a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion cockpit and fly-by-wire flight control architecture.

WHAT’S INSIDE COUNTS

The fact that passengers could be on a Global 7500 for 16h without a stop meant Bombardier had to design the sort of interior in which a customer and his or her family or colleagues would feel at home throughout the day and night. An ultra-long-haul flight might involve working in an office environment, dining at a table, relaxing with home entertainment, and sleeping in a bed.

"The sort of missions the aircraft will fly meant we had to elevate the level of comfort to a whole new level," says Jean-Christophe Gallagher, Bombardier's vice-president and general manager, customer experience.

In April, amid the very un-aviation industry surroundings of the Global Conference 2018 at the Milken Institute in Beverly Hills – a $50,000-a-ticket gathering for wealthy individuals, financiers and other movers and shakers of the corporate world – Bombardier unveiled its Nuage seat for the Global 7500. The name – French for cloud – is intended to evoke its airy weightlessness and Bombardier describes it as the industry’s first "deep recline seat".

The Nuage’s elements include a tilt-link system that enables full recline with a comfortable dip at the hips, a headrest that tilts forward in recline to cradle the head and neck, and a new swivel mechanism with an axis of rotation that always remains below the passenger's centre of gravity.

At EBACE, Bombardier is unveiling its Nice Touch cabin management system, developed exclusively for the Global 7500 with Lufthansa Technik. The technology – quietly revealed to invited customers in a back room at NBAA and fitted as part of the interior on the FTV4 test aircraft – includes a "retractable side-ledge dial" to control cabin and entertainment settings, and is the industry's first application, both companies claim, of an organic light-emitting diode display.

Taking its inspiration from high-end timepieces and hi-fi systems, the dial – at 35mm (1.4in) in diameter, barely the size of a large watch face – typifies the attention to detail shown during its development. It elevates from the side ledge and retracts when not in use. Everything from adjusting local lighting to controlling the height of the blinds and selecting entertainment is done with one hand.

"We have been working on it for four years and designed it three times until we felt we got it right," says Philip von Schroeter, senior director OEM business units for Lufthansa Technik.

The Global 7500 cabin management system also includes what Bombardier calls "suite controllers", bulkhead-mounted interfaces that provide a second way of controlling the cabin environment. An app, available on iOS and Android devices, provides access to a wide selection of media, and includes preset lighting schemes that offer "limitless custom colour combinations for the perfect cabin ambience". A Ka-band-enabled connectivity system allows "passengers to effortlessly surf, stream, watch and listen to content as if they were at home", says the manufacturer.

While the Global 7500’s record range is undoubtedly one of its headline attractions, what is inside the cabin is often the biggest differentiator when it comes to choosing a business jet, argues Brad Nolen, vice-president of marketing and product strategy for Bombardier Business Aircraft. "It is becoming more and more important as time goes on. The whole experience of flying in a business jet is evolving," he says.

"As you have more and more competitors entering the field and airplanes are flying further and further and you have more choices, people are moving away from range and speed and more to things like the level of noise in the aircraft. The ride quality in particular. Is it a bumpy airplane or a smooth airplane?

He adds: "More and more, you’re getting into the area of seat comfort over the last 10 years, progressively towards: 'Yes, I’m going to look at the seat and I’m going to take a decision on the seat'."

Additional reporting by Stephen Trimble

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