The program had a remarkable month. As the chart illustrates, it was the best month yet. At a cumulative 2,352 hours the program is now virtually at the original target 2,400 hours. In August all the CS100 FTV’s were flying and the CS300 FTV flew as well, adding 84 flights to the fleet total of 807 and racking up 276 more hours taking the FTV fleet total to 2,628.6 flight hours.
Readers will have seen our update with Rob Dewar last week in which he spoke of the CS100 program going over the 2,400 hour mark. We had estimated the program would reach the target hours within the first two weeks of September. That looks like now being breached this week if past is prologue. As Mr. Dewar noted, the 2,400 flight hours was an estimate based on previous programs and the evaluation very early in the design process of how much time would be needed to test each system. Plus or minus 10% would not be an abnormal delta considering the tasks. At this point, of course you can expect it will go slightly over 2,400 – at Bombardier’s election, but at the rate they’ve been performing flight testing since the beginning of the year, they don’t anticipate issues reaching the target of certifying the aircraft in 2015.
Now program followers want to understand the next steps. How many hours does the CS100 program still require? Mr. Dewar spoke of the self-directed requirement for 150 test hours, and Bombardier doing an additional 150 hours to shake down the aircraft prior to delivery to launch customer Swiss.
This is a conservative approach to ensure the Swiss EIS goes smoothly and exceeds the 98.4% dispatch reliability the flight test is seeing now. The 150 hours of extra tests are probably to ensure that. Perhaps Bombardier believes these extra hours will demonstrate to those target customers waiting to place orders that the aircraft is capable of delivering what they hope.
An intriguing aspect of the flight test program now is going to be seen as this is the first highly-integrated program with teams working together for certification. There can be little doubt that BCA is driving hard to achieve certification with Transport Canada and the other certification bodies. The first production aircraft are already being made. How many more of flight hours are really needed? If 2,400 was the target, what is the new target and what do these extra hours bring to the program? How many more hours before the FTV’s go into F&R test mode?
Bombardier advised us that testing the aircraft systems and performance always proceeds in iterations. It starts with initial flights to validate basic behaviors, and envelopes are then expanded gradually to the limits, even testing induced failure cases. While doing so, engineers gather the data for analysis that allows for improvements of the systems and their interactions. Software and systems upgrades are then implemented on the aircraft, and are retested for conformity. Once satisfactory, tests are repeated with Transport Canada’s attendance. Transport Canada have already started attending certification tests on multiple systems and reviewing documentation. In other words, Bombardier doesn’t wait at one point and then present the whole aircraft to the authorities at once.
With the aircraft demonstrating high dispatch reliability now in test mode, the desire to accelerate to the “airline test mode” is likely high within BCA. This desire in not a whim – Lufthansa has said their first neo is coming in December this year as opposed to early next year. Airbus confirmed this to us today. There is real market pressure at play.