Bombardier hopes to reap benefits of Boeing technology

Bombardier is closely watching Boeing's 7E7 programme as it weighs similar structural, powerplant and subsystem technological advances that could be incorporated into a revamped BRJ-X regional jet development capable of delivering a 20% improvement in efficiency over current 100- to 120-seat aircraft.

When Bombardier shelved the BRJ-X programme in 2000, the design at that time promised an 8-10% cost improvement. Should Bombardier decide to rekindle the development in around 18 months the goal would be to have an aircraft available by the end of the decade capable of delivering a 20% saving on current types, says Steve Ridolfi, Bombardier regional aircraft president.

The aim would be to enter the market with a more efficient design that would leapfrog the competing 70- to 108-seat Embraer 170/190 family, similar to Boeing's strategy for countering the Airbus A330 with the 7E7. The aircraft's size means that it is more likely to be operated by a mainline carrier or mainline division rather than a traditional low-cost regional operator, meaning the saving will have to come from the aircraft rather than the carrier.

Boeing's recent decision to use composite materials to build the 7E7's wing and fuselage has caught Bombardier's attention. The switch from a traditional, predominantly aluminum, structure to carbonfibre-epoxy and titanium-carbonfibre laminate offers the potential to cut an aircraft's weight and prolong its fatigue life.

Other advances being pioneered by the 7E7 that could be used on the BRJ-X include bleedless engines and the move towards a "more-electric" aircraft, featuring an electric environmental control system and electric/hydraulic flight controls. New high bypass ratio geared fan engines, such as the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800, would also interest Bombardier, says Ridolfi.

The BRJ-X was conceived as a fly-by-wire aircraft. Bombardier is in the midst of a technology demonstration that it hopes to have concluded by the end of the year that would make digital flight controls available for any new platform.

Meanwhile, Bombardier has not given up on the proposed 76-seat CRJ700 Series 705 aircraft, which launch customer US Airways has dropped in favour of the 70-seat Series 701 after pilot union opposition (Flight International, 15-21 July). A high level of production commonality between the CRJ700 and stretched CRJ900, on which the Series 705 is based, means the airline has until the end of August to find a solution and still take delivery of the first jet early next year.

Source: Flight International