CSeries launch operator Swiss intends to gradually increase the number of Bombardier CS100 flights to London City from the initial single rotation per day.
At a media briefing before the type's first commercial flight to London City on 8 August, Swiss's CSeries chief pilot Peter Koch said it intended to eventually operate five CS100 flights a day to the UK capital's downtown airport, without specifying a timeframe.
FlightGlobal schedules data shows that on weekdays Swiss operates five to six London City flights from Zurich and two from Geneva. The Lufthansa group carrier plans to start CS100 flights from Geneva in March 2018.
Most of Swiss's London City flights are being operated with Embraer 190s wet-leased from Zurich-based Helvetic Airways. Swiss is still deploying its remaining BAE Systems Avro RJ100 to the UK airport, but this will be retired on 14 August, says the airline.
Koch says ground space restrictions at London City will for the time being restrict the CSeries operation to one aircraft at a time. The airport has three parking positions – at the apron's east end – to accommodate the CSeries. But the jet's 35m (115ft) wingspan prevents it from using a taxiway alongside the apron to access runway 09, says Koch.
For easterly departures, pilots need to roll on to the runway via taxiways D or E – the only two taxiways approved for CSeries operation – and backtrack to the 09 threshold. Koch says this manoeuvre – without an option to vacate the runway at the end – has an impact on the airport's runway capacity.
For westerly departures, all aircraft need to backtrack to the 27 threshold. But at that end, there is an area in which to turn around and vacate the runway.
London City's chief operating officer Alison FitzGerald says the airport is "testing" operations with two CSeries aircraft at a time. Expansion plans for the airport involve extension of the apron to the east with seven additional aircraft stands and a taxiway to runway 27 by 2022, she adds.
Koch says the new taxiway and aircraft stands will accommodate the CSeries and will simplify the type's operation at London City. When Swiss conducted an initial test flight to the airport, on 17 July, the trial included 2h of taxiing to evaluate ground manoeuvring. The tests also involved several landing approaches and missed approaches, notes Koch.
Until 21 August, Swiss will restrict CS100 flights at London City to a maximum of 91 passengers. Thereafter, the limit will be raised to 108. Koch says that this restriction – the aircraft can seat up to 125 – is linked to reduced braking capability in wet conditions, and that Swiss opted to initially lower the threshold further until pilots had accrued more operational experience with the type on London City's 1,200m (3,945ft) runway.
Swiss CS100s' 125 seats are laid out two-plus-three per row, but two seats are typically left unoccupied in each business-class row.
The 108-passenger limit still provides more capacity than is available on E190s, says Koch.
In April, Bombardier gained approval for the CS100 to operate at London City. Koch does not rule out the approval's extension to the 145-seat CS300. "Never say never," he says, noting that the E190 was cleared for the airport's steep approach after the smaller E170. But as of now, Swiss has no plans to operate the CS300 to London City.
Bombardier partnered Swiss to tap the airline's experience of operating from the airport, says Koch. He recalls that Swiss's predecessor Crossair in 1992 became the first operator to fly regional jets – BAe 146s – to London City.
In order to make the CS100 fit for the airport's 5.5 degree approach, the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G powerplants' full-authority digital engine control system has been adjusted to lower idle power versus normal operations, says Koch. The aircraft's fly-by-wire flight control system has been modified to extend two spoiler panels on each wing – at slightly different deflection angles – to stabilise speed during descent, and changes have been made to cockpit systems to adapt the aircraft's flare guidance display to the steep approach. Koch adds that the cockpit modification includes an indicator for maximum elevator deflection, to avoid potential long-landings.
Swiss already operates eight CS100s and two CS300s, and another 18 CS300s and two CS100s are scheduled to be delivered through 2018, says the airline.
Lufthansa Group has options and purchase rights for up to 60 further CSeries aircraft, notes Koch.