Yesterday we got to speak with Rob Dewar, C Series program GM and Vice President at Bombardier. Earlier in the day the company’s share price rose on the better news flow and realization that no new delays were coming. It is telling that the market’s natural disposition is to expect bad news from Bombardier.
We had a few questions for Rob.
- There has been some chatter about the flight test program challenges – any comment on this?
The program is overall is progressing very well we have now completed 82% of our certification program. The flight testing is going smoother than planned and we have just passed through 2,250 hours. Last Tuesday (August 18th) we broke a company and program record by having the whole fleet of six flying and we accumulated 20½ hours in one day. By the way we plan to beat this when we add P1 (first production C Series) to our test fleet. Currently the fleet is running at 98.5% reliability. Our reliability is excellent and we are now at over 200 hours per month. We attempted to test the wing to failure in order to understand the full future growth potential . The carbon fiber wing performed better than expected, we took it well over 150% without failure. We have absolutely no challenges slowing down our flight test program at all. We have now successfully completed all the high risk tests.
- We are approaching the 2,400 hour moment. What happens when you reach this milestone?
We are going to exceed that number. Functional and reliability (F&R) testing is planned for 150 hours in addition to the 2,400. We came to 2,400 by calculating what we thought we’d need. As we fly through 2,400, we will add P1 which is already painted in house colors and we are now adding its cabin interior. This aircraft will undertake the F&R testing. It will do this at the certified standard we have published to customers. These tests will see the aircraft fly in the US, Canada and even EU. It has to perform its tests per the manuals and be at the defined levels of reliability we have advertised. Incidentally we got approximately 500 hours of credit for our ground tests that was “cooked” into the program and limited the flights to 2,400. As I mentioned we are high levels of reliability already so we are confident this F&R testing will also go well.
- Can you walk us through the process with Transport Canada and certification – what are the steps and how long should this take?
This is a continuous process actually. The three certifications we are working on are Transport Canada, FAA and EASA. We are following a defined program set up earlier. Much of the work is undertaken by us and we report our results to these agencies. Then there are other tests which these agencies want to see for themselves – like the evacuation test. Transport Canada also attended our hot weather test in Mesa Arizona. We are doing noise testing in Oregon at the moment. We still have to do the water trough test. Transport Canada even gets to fly the aircraft in some tests. We will do more icing tests in September. Bombardier gets to run many tests because of its track record with these agencies and they accept our results. But in some cases there are critical tests they want to view themselves. In January we will start operations evaluation tests and run our fleet like an airline. This will also be the lead in time for the Swiss crews to formalize training. We will carry bags and do the typical airline type of flying. Incidentally we will add an extra 150 hours of F&R time on our own, for a total of 300 hours, to ensure we are at peak reliability. We will shake down P1 fully. None of this will delay the EIS.
- Swiss EIS plans?
Obviously we don’t give any customer details. But we will be ready for them in first quarter next year. The process starts as far out as 18 months before EIS. It gets more detailed and involved as we get closer to EIS. In January we start with simulator training, general training, spare parts provisioning and delivering manuals plus move our people on site, like the field service reps. Other suppliers are also doing this. From January we ramp up our collaboration with our customer. We are set for delivery in the first half of 2016.