Bombardier has a lot of work to do between now and 30 June, when the first CSeries flight-test aircraft is scheduled to fly. CSeries vice-president and general manager Rob Dewar is keeping mum on details about the preparations for the first flight, but he can explain why he is so confident the new narrowbody will remain on schedule and enter service in mid-2014. Bombardier then plans to ramp up production to at least 120 per year by 2017
What can you tell us about what you have planned for FTV-1 between the Paris air show and the end of June?
We don't share those details because we are, of course, planning to make some announcements at the show. So stay tuned. We will be doing some updates during the air show. Our plan is to fly by the end of June and we're tracking to that plan.
Can you talk about how many aircraft are in the flight-test programme and what role is assigned to each aircraft?
The functional and reliability testing?
Absolutely, yes. That's going to continue with us after certification to do route proving, and we'll do demos with that aircraft as well.
Is that also an ETOPS [extended operations} aircraft?
All of the aircraft are designed for ETOPS. But the ETOPS full [180min certification] is going to come about, I think, six months after basic certification.
What can you say about what kind of margin you build into your test schedule in case you encounter any surprises which, of course, is the whole purpose of flight test?
We have carried out 25 programmes during the past 28 years, so we have a lot of experience. We don't build a lot of margin in. We actually do a lot of up-front work to avoid having problems in flight test. If you look at the testing we've done up to now, it's really been an order of magnitude more than the rest of the industry. We feel comfortable with our timelines, but there's not a lot of room for finding major problems, which we really don't expect and, to be honest, so far on the programme we've had a great track record of doing testing early.
There was one incident during the CRJ1000 programme with the fly-by-wire rudder. Can you tell us how you addressed that issue at the time and what lessons are being carried over to the CSeries programme?
That's a good question. Basically, we learned many lessons as to why that happened and what was missing in that process, and we actually implemented that on the CSeries. We built up with the same team, so the same people continued on. It also led us to really drive a lot more up-front testing and so, for example, on the fly-by-wire we have three rigs running in parallel and that's really to build maturity and test every possible feature of that system that we could up-front. We also have a fully integrated ISTCR [integrated systems test and certification rig], which has a full fly-by-wire system that is integrated with the rest of the systems on the aircraft. That's been running more than a year now, so we've built up a lot of experience. And the other thing we did was we introduced a very rigid process for requirements traceability.
How does that ground testing continue after flight test begins?
We're carrying out the safety of flight testing, which is nearing completion as we speak. Right after that we go into certification testing, so we can really unload the flight-test programme, so we can be more efficient. The more tests we can do on the ground the more effective it is. We do run consistently 20h per day on the ground-test aircraft, whereas in flight test people can run on the order of 40-50h per month, per aircraft.
It was a year ago when Bombardier invited journalists inside the factory in Mirabel to show the wooden mock-up of the CSeries. How is that helping you to this point with FTV-1 and the follow-on test vehicles?
Of course we do use state-of-the-art tools to virtually simulate the aircraft assembly, but really the work is to practise and also to implement the practical things that the simulations still don't have the capability to fully capture. So we modified a lot of how we installed various components and completion of the aircraft so workers were not competing for the same space around the aircraft. We also modified a lot of the staging - to the platforms and where they are located. We also made a number of them smaller and movable. A lot of learning has been supplemented with the virtual simulation of our tools.
What is the status of FTV-2, 3 and 4?
One is in the hands of the flight-test group, still in ground test. Two is completing assembly. Basically structure is complete, wires installed, we have the engines also installed, landing gear. It's actually finishing assembly of smaller systems and then we'll enter into doing its functional test procedures. FTV-3 is also structurally assembled. The engines are on dock and being installed. Four is again structurally complete and five is in basic assembly and not yet completed.
Looking more than a year ahead, what are you doing to prepare for the production ramp up that begins after certification?
We build at a lower rate that's consistent with how we're building now, and we have a gated approach. So when we get through various milestones in the programme, and from here on it's mostly the flight-test milestones, once we're confident the aircraft is clean, we'll really turn on and start ramping up the programme.