Today Bombardier announced that they have almost completed their route proving for the C Series program in Zürich. They have visited 46 airports within Europe and achieved a dispatch reliability of 100%; a quite remarkable achievement. Usually the dispatch reliability on such stages of clean sheet aircraft is expected to be at around 96-97 % Rob Dewar, Vice President, C Series program said.
During the phase they also tested the short haul capabilities and were able to turn around the aircraft within 20 minutes. Furthermore they flew a maximum of four legs per day, whereas Swiss, as the launch customer, will use it for up to eight legs, Peter Koch, fleet chief and program manager of Swiss, stated. So there we might see dispatch reliability decrease a bit. Peter Koch expects the aircraft, which will be delivered in June 2016, to achieve a dispatch reliability of 99.0% while in operation.
Interestingly, the aircraft is not yet certified to fly the steep approaches as the one at London City airport, which is a “key airport” for Swiss. For the launch customer, it was a fundamental criterion to operate to and from LCY. Moreover Odyssey Airlines will also use the aircraft to offer long-haul flights from LCY for business customers. It is expected that Bombardier will complete the steep approach certification in September 2016. Peter Koch explained that Swiss will start operating at LCY in 1Q17.
The Pratt and Whitney geared turbo fan has been performing remarkably well. Peter Koch explained that the engine will not have the problem launch customers of the A320Neo are dealing with now. The bending of the shaft due to the high temperatures and the possible damage of the inner casing is not a risk due to the different mounting of the engine. Consequently the starting sequence and cooling down time will be less than two minutes, as usual for airliners in operation today. The difference is in the location of the engine control system; the C Series system is mounted in the casing of the engine and not close to the core as on A320neo. Also the neo engine is mounted at the core whereas the C Series engine mounts at the fan.
Peter Wojahn, Chief Technical Officer at Swiss, emphasized the good relationship between Bombardier and Swiss since the launch of the program and that requirements after the program delay were always met by Bombardier. Still, the phase in of the aircraft is a total different story compared to their other new aircraft (777-300ER). While for the 777-300ER know-how such as maintenance can be transformed from other Lufthansa Group airlines, Swiss uses a different approach on the C Series to gain EASA certification. Therefore they train a large number of their staff in Montreal and even have engineers in Mirabel to be well prepared when the aircraft goes into operation.
Swiss will have pilots from the Avro RJ-100, Embraer and the A320 fleets flying the C Series. Remarkably, pilots with the different experience and knowledge about the weaknesses of their specific aircraft have good words to say about the C Series. Pilots of Swiss now trained on the C Series highlighted that the aircraft has a very clean cockpit, phenomenal aerodynamics and the systems actually do what the pilot expects from the aircraft.
Furthermore the Rockwell Collins systems have the capabilities to integrate and upgrade new systems to optimize operation and increase safety. For example an airport moving map for better situational awareness on the ground may be installed. Additionally a system similar to the brake to vacate system (Airbus) may be deployed on the C Series. The idea is to have a better (and later) timing in braking the aircraft when landing so that the runway is vacated by a high-speed taxi way at maximum allowed speed. Thus the runway is clear seconds earlier, increasing the capacity of that specific runway. For legacy carriers where runway capacity is a problem at their hubs, such a system might generate additional slots and create the opportunity for more flights. Low cloud bases and fog will have less of an impact on the operations at Swiss; low visibility approaches will be flown due to the precise systems and the help of the head up display (HUD).
Bombardier has brought Peter Koch along on trips to introduce the C Series to other airlines. In the long run, with a confident launch customer, a C Series in operation with high dispatch reliability and an aggressive sales strategy we could likely soon see new customers for Bombardier.
Although the european route proving is completed, Flightradar24 shows that CS100 P1 flights between european airports are going on.
That’s promising results so far, but one brand new plane pulling 100% dispatch reliability for a few weeks at a maximum of 4 legs a day and a maintenance team with only one aircraft to care for is arguably much easier than multiple aircraft managing 99% at 8 legs a day and with maintenance crews juggling priorities for multiple birds. For comparison, the 787 is still not quite to 99%, and Airbus’ target for the A350 is reported to be 98.5% by the end of the 2nd year after EIS. Boeing had a hard fight to get the 777 over 99%, and both the 737 and A320 beat 99% through years of improvements. I believe the E-Jets are supposed to be somewhere in the 98.5-99% range.
Either Bombardier must have extremely solid proof they have a plane with a quality level far beyond what any competitor has achieved out of the gate, or Mr. Dewar’s conversations with Mr. Koch are setting unrealistic expectations.
For many years now, Bombardier is promising a dispatch reliability rate of 99% at EIS and 99.5% after a year. That because of the AHMS that collects 5000 data points from the different aircraft components so diagnostic is through the ADS-B and parts and mechanics can be dispatched before the aircraft is back on the ground. The AHMS allows the C Series to have D check at 8000 hours instead of the traditional 5000. Other checks are also moved up. Finally the C Series don’t need a daily inspection but a 100 hour inspection, no daily inspections means no early morning bad surprises. There again, the daily inspection is not required because all of the data collected by the AHMS gives a good portrait of the aircraft status and airworthiness. The C Series is a great aircraft and its AHMS is one of thing that scares Airbus and Boeing the most because the only way to integrate such a system in an aircraft is with a clean sheet design.
The 787 has AHMS. The 787 does not have 99% dispatch reliability, even though Boeing’s global support staffing is far larger than what Bombardier can muster. If Bombardier does manage 99% dispatch reliability, I will be exuberant, because that will significantly improve their sales appeal, but there is currently no reason to expect them to pull off such a difficult feat.
The 787 has been a lemon from the start 😉
… And there is no reason to expect that the C Series will not achieve 99% dispatch reliability.
Think at it this way: the 787 was rushed into service by Boeing… Remember the Terrible Teens:
On the other hand, Bombardier is taking its time with the C Series. Bombardier knows they can’t mishandle EIS.