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April 12, 2024
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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.

2015-09-02_8-20-09Readers 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.


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13 thoughts on “C Series Flight Test Update – August

  1. After reading your update with Rob Dewar I had the impression that the aircraft would not be certified before the end of October; and after reading the above post I have not changed my mind. We have now reached the original 2400 hour target, but it looks like a lot of work still remains. It is interesting to note that earlier this year many observers, including AI, thought that the 2400 hour target would be reached by the end of August, beginning of September, and that is exactly where we are now. That means flight testing has remained relatively constant and BBD were able to maintain a fast pace. But we can only speculate as to when all the testing will be over for certification. Anyway, in exactly 15 days from now it will be two years since the CS100 maiden flight.

  2. I would like to know what they specific tests they have to do for certification. They have flown with passengers and have completed the water trough test which were the two big ones which you would think would be left until last but apparently they have 400 hours left to complete(2250 = 80 %. 100% = 2800hrs) Good thing they got credit for ground testing or else they would have to fly over 3000 hrs apparently. With the share price headed towards penny stock status it would be nice to get some good news soon.

  3. “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. ”

    Keep in mind that 98.4% dispatch reliability during certification testing does not mean 98.4% dispatch reliability in service.

    Bombardier has a large team of mechanics and technicians supporting the test fleet. They’re operating out of only a handful of airports and a large support staff follows them to other airports they go to for specific tests, like the noise testing in Oregon. They prepare diligently for each test, and delaying a flight for a few hours delay to deal with some issue that arises generally doesn’t disrupt later planned flights, since they’re usually not until the next day.

    Although I’m sure Lufthansa has enough experience to know to introduce new types on relaxed schedules and have spares ready at hand, unlike Norwegian, who tried to hit the ground running 100% with their 787’s, actual entry into service will be a different ballgame for the CSeries.

    Instead of once or twice a day, the planes will be flying half a dozen times. Instead of hours or sometimes even a day or more for turnarounds, they’ll have 30-60 minutes. And if a flight is delayed, it likely affect the rest of the schedule for the day.

    That said, the progress has me hopeful. And the pessimism that has driven Bombardier stock down to barely $1/share has me really wishing my brokerage had access to the Toronto exchange. I still do have some concern about Bombardier having enough cash to see themselves through ramp up, and a lesser but still real concern that a 110-130 seat market may not materialize even if the plane proves efficient and reliable, but things are looking up.

  4. That amounts to 2355 hours, not counting the CS300 (FTV7). That is quite close to the original 2400 hours that we had all anticipated. But of course we now know they will need a little more than that. Perhaps another month or so I would say

  5. At the top of this page it says they were at 2352 hours 3 weeks ago. They’ve been averaging about 150 hours per month all year. They should be over 2400 hours now.

    Meanwhile, Reuters is claiming today that CSeries *certification* tests will continue for 2 more months.


    I emphasize “certification” because that would be different than the 150 hours of self-directed tests Mr. Dewar mentioned. I also noticed, however, the article did not ever explicitly state the 2 months were for flight testing. I would presume so, but it wasn’t clarified.

    That would suggest total flight time at the completion of certification testing in the range of 2700 hours.

    That also leaves barely a month for authorities to complete review of all the data and documents in order to issue the type certificate by the end of 2015. If that certification date slides into 2016, it should not affect the first delivery, but that won’t stop critics from pointing out yet another delay in the program.

    The Reuters article also brings up once again Richard Aboulafia’s prediction that first delivery will slide to the 2nd half of 2016. It’s not clear to me that Aboulafia has any specific reason for believing that. I get the impression he’s just betting Bombardier’s schedule slides will continue.

  6. I agree with AI on end of October, or first week of November, for completion of flight testing. And I also agree with you that everything is not clear. I don’t know if this is deliberate or not on the part of Bombardier but it remains difficult to know exactly where they stand in terms of certification. I still expect the aircraft to be certified before the end of the year but I would not bet any money on that. Especially in view of what has been reported by Reuters: “Bombardier expects to complete the final certification testing of its smaller new CSeries narrow-body commercial jet by the week of Nov. 23.” That corresponds to what Robert Deluce (Porter) said recently in an interview with BNN (a month or two ago). Now, does this really mean end of flight testing or were these two parties talking about the certification itself? For it’s very easy to confuse one with the other. And in that Reuters article there is an other statement that I did not understand: “Bombardier needed about $1 billion to complete certification of the new jet, but would need about $3 billion in additional funding to help reel in the sales it needs to make the CSeries a success in the highly competitive marketplace, he said.” I cannot figure out what that $3 billion would be used for. What would make sense to me is if they had said that BBD would likely need an additional funding of $3 billion to survive until they get behind the learning curve and new sales start to come in. Because BBD are presently in a transition period where a lot of cash is being burnt on new products development while less revenues are being generated. Rolls-Royce find themselves in a similar situation right now. And towards the end of the decade Boeing could also find themselves in a similar cycle.

  7. The company has said previously that Transport Canada has been reviewing the certification test results concurrently with the flight tests so that when the final tests are done it should not be long for certification to be granted. Apparently the results have been good as they have resumed production of the first planes for Swiss Air.

  8. 88% complete and design frozen:

    Bombardier confirmed today that the certification configuration of the C Series aircraft was declared “frozen” this week as the program advanced into the final stretch of the certification process.

    “This week, we congratulated our teams on reaching a critical step – freezing the final certification design configuration. This certification design will be the basis for compliance with the applicable regulatory requirements that will be part of the Type Design,” said Robert Dewar, Vice President, C Series Aircraft Program. “In addition to completing over 88 % of the CS100 aircraft’s flight certification tests, the applicable certification reports are being finalized by our teams and are progressing at a steady pace to ensure alignment between Bombardier, its suppliers and the airworthiness authorities.”

    Transport Canada is the governing authority that will provide the initial certification of the CS100 which will detail all C Series aircraft software, hardware and customer options. Bombardier is on track to obtain the C Series aircraft’s certification by end of year 2015, followed by the CS100 aircraft’s entry-into-service in the first half of 2016 with first operator SWISS.

  9. Yes, that is typical, but it still seems to generally take several weeks to complete the review, finish filing records, double-check everything, perhaps decide on an initial limitations, and whatever else may be involved in the process before the type certificate is actually issued. Looking back, it appears it was about 2 weeks after the last flight test for the 787 and 6 weeks for the A350.

    There also often seems to be a delay between issuing the primary agency issuing the certificate and other agencies doing so. I think it was about a month after the FAA certified the 787 that the European certification was approved. Since the first customer for CSeries is European, no doubt as soon as Transport Canada signs the certificate, they’ll be leaning on the EASA to do the same, but it won’t be instantaneous.

    I’m sure the results are good. Once the engine failure was resolved and the apparent fly-by-wire issues were worked out, testing seemed to go smoothly. In particular, I don’t recall any structural, electrical, or hydraulic issues being mentioned, and those are the sorts of issues I’d think most likely to delay the production ramp up.

  10. Reuters often hastily writes articles without first getting a clear understanding of what details mentioned by sources mean (although not as bad as Associated Press), and that’s the sense I get from the $1 billion and $3 billion figures. However, it is true they need more money. If I recall from a previous article (might have been in the Financial Post), analysts are estimating Bombardier has enough cash to continue their current expenditures through next summer or maybe a bit more, and then they’re going to be below what analysts consider a reasonable level of reserves.

    Keep in mind, the CSeries program doesn’t start generating positive cash flow for the company once deliveries begin. Initial airframes almost always cost more to build than they actually sold for, as there is a lot of streamlining to production that can’t really occur until they start ramping up, both as they learn the best way to put the aircraft together, and as they invest in more equipment and training more employees to support the work. Fortunately, Bombardier seems well poised to avoid the massive amounts of rework and the major assembly process changes Boeing went through on the 787, but Bombardier also has a lot less resources to work with to reach the forward-profit stage. I’m sure saving up resources to pay for this ramp up is a big part of why the decision was made to slow the Global 7000 program.

    Sales are another story, but I think they’ll start to trickle in, and the deposits that come with those sales will help get the program on a solid footing. This is a really rough time for Bombardier, but if they hold on long enough to prove the economy and reliability of the CSeries and get Global 7000 deliveries started, things may start looking very bright for them.

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