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.
Thank you very much for posting this. All along they had talked about 2400 hrs and even the chance for getting credit for ground testing. I wish you had ask about that. At least now we know where they stand. FlightGlobal added that they had a customer request 120 min ETOPS which they plan to achieve within a year. For certification they will only have 90 mins ETOPS.
We did ask and he said they got 500 credit hours for ground testing. In answer to second question.
Yes, they said the 500 hrs were ‘cooked’ into the 2400 hrs but they need at least another 150 hrs for certification.. This is different from what they have been saying since the start of the program:
10 Jun 2014 G & M “Four CSeries aircraft has flown nearly 330 hours of testing, well short of the 2,400 required to receive Transport Canada certification. The company expects to get some credit for ground testing…”
Leeham News interview with Dewar 24 Nov 2014 “Flight testing has now passed the 500 hour mark out of a total of 2400h planned. Dewar was encouraged that the certification earned value actually tracks ahead of flown test hours due to the CIASTA ground testing system that has been in place and which parallels flight testing.”
If 2250 = 82% then 100% = 2744 hrs. Does this seem correct to you? If so that would mean they have about 500 hrs to go.
It is 82% of required certification tests that have been ‘performed’.
I totally agree with you Trooper. I was worrying about that myself and I thought their numbers did not add up. Also, it seems to me that we have already been told several weeks ago, perhaps at PAS or not long after, that Bombardier had completed 80% of the testing required for certification. So yes I think they probably have another 500 hours or so to go. If that is indeed the case it would mean they cannot complete flight testing before the end of October at best. I don’t know how long it is going to take for Transport Canada to complete the paperwork but I imagine it will be very close to Christmas time when they will finally issue the certificate.
He says 82% of the certification program, not necessarily flight hours. Certification consists of both flight and ground tests, and a whole lot of paper work.
The 82% measurement could be hours work, percent of line items, calendar days, etc. He didn’t clarify. On the other hand, your 2744 hours calculation is close to the 2400 hours certification testing + the 300 hours F&R testing.
Plus, I think we’ve been misunderstanding the CIASTA credit all along. It sounds like they actually had 2900 hours worth of full aircraft tests to perform, 500 of which they were allowed to do on the ground.
I’m also unclear how those 150 hours F&R tests fit into the picture. I assume they are not for certification, but to ensure the plane is performing reliably for the customer – it’s one thing to have a test aircraft fly once or twice a day, several days a week, with dozens of mechanics and engineers supporting it. It’s another to have it fly 12-15 hours every day in half a dozen or more flights, with a regular staff of mechanics and normal airline turn-around times.
I’ve also been wondering if the early fly-by-wire issues and the engine failure will require them to repeat any tests. If so, maybe they’re able to accomplish them during the F&R testing.
I’d love to know more about the wing test – did they actually take it to failure, or did they stop before then? Did performance match their calculations? Carbon fiber is usually considered to be more difficult to predict the failure behavior of than aluminum, and I’ve heard scuttlebutt that the 2/3 span demo wing they built at the start of the program turned out to be massively overbuilt and they had to do a major overhaul of their FEA methodology.
Hopefully they give us an updated video showing the wings at full flex.
No mention of fatigue testing? I’d think that should be starting soon.
The ETOPS request is interesting. I wonder which customer that was. I think Odyssey is the only customer with stated interest in long over water flights, but I seem to recall doubt on whether they would actually be able to complete the purchase, being dependent on both getting enough investors and getting regulatory approval for their business plan.
Or perhaps it’s a customer that hasn’t announced an order yet. There’s been a lot of hopeful speculation that Air Canada might at some point order the hometown aircraft – are any of the remote Canadian domestic routes subject to such long (for a narrowbody) ETOPS requirements?
There’s glimpse of the wing flex, starting at 3:47 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhxyLAEe5Rc&feature=youtu.be
No they did not take the wing to failure as it exceeded their expectations. About mid way through this video from 15 Jun they show how they took the wing to 150% of the predicted failure point and it did not break. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpJFqZ3v1C4
This bodes well for using the same wing for the CS500.
If this comment and the August 22 10.45 am reply refer to static test of the limit load (the maximum likely to occur in normal service, not “the predicted failure point”), the wing evidently performed satisfactorily. For certification, the required maximum loading (or ultimate-load) demonstration involves the specimen being tested to one and one half times the limit load, hence Bombardier reports: “… we took it well over 150% without failure.”
That is not at all the same as testing the wing “to failure,” which the company might have done since (or may still plan to do) “to understand the full future growth potential.” A test “to failure,” will indicate such potential and – perhaps including further finite element modelling – the degree of over-engineering in the original design (as implied in the 2/3-span demonstration rumour).
Rather than “wing break test,” as Bombardier captions the video, it should perhaps be termed a wing “non-break” test.
“The degree of over-engineering in the original design (as implied in the 2/3-span demonstration rumour).”
Could you please explain what you mean by “2/3-span demonstration rumour”.
It is simply a back reference to iamlucky13’s statement: “I’ve heard scuttlebutt that the 2/3 span demo wing they built at the start of the program turned out to be massively overbuilt” that I infer implies over-engineering of the test specimen – or have I misunderstood the expression?
There’s a short article that includes a few sentences about the demonstrator wing project here:
The project had several purposes, including not only validating or tweaking their finite element models to batter match their carbon fiber layup pattern, but also practicing assembly of large composite structures, and refining their resin transfer infusion process, which is a common method of making small carbon fiber parts, but seldom used on larger structures. They got a decent amount praise within the composites industry for figuring out how to use resin transfer infusion on a part as large as a wing skin.
The bit about the demonstrator wing being significantly over-engineered is unofficial. The person I got the info from was someone who would have known what he was talking about, however. Being better than intended is far from the worst problem to have, but I assume it meant a major change in their FEA process before they could get into weight optimizing the structure.
Related to all that, here’s one of Bombardier’s better self-promotion videos showing a fair amount of the wing factory in Belfast. It includes a few shots of a CNC fabric trimmer preparing the dry carbon fiber, workers laying it out, and the expensive resin transfer infusion equipment:
Im just glad lately that the “Big Dogs” are speaking, which they should do alot more because the spokepeople at this company are very horrendous…I cannot wait to fly on this Airplane, it will be something of a milestone to be part of this. Its been a long time coming and another year is well worth it and at these prices, you might as well bring down that Avg price or get in now. I love Canada and Bombardier…It will be a Gem, but really those Spokespeople have to GO!!!
Nothing wrong in hopeful speculation, I guess, so long as OEMs don’t expect automatic purchase by hometown carriers, nor local operators expect the aircraft to be built exclusively to their own specs. The British industry learned a hard lesson in the 1950s/60s, designing aircraft such as the de Havilland Trident and Vickers VC10 so closely to BEA and BOAC requirements. The entire VC10 project accounted for less than one month’s A320 or 737 production… And that after producing the Viscount, the world’s first turbine commercial airplane – albeit now 65 years ago: 444 built – pretty good total for a late 1940s’ design. (It’s also ironic to reflect that the first jetliner to fly in the U.S. was not American – how galling, then, for that particular hometown industry.)