This week AirInsight visited Montreal and Mirabel along with other media and analysts. The unedited videos below provide readers with some of the briefings.
The program that attracts the most attention is the CSeries. Were Bombardier to be doing this program in a world where there were no delays at Airbus and Boeing, then the scrutiny would be so much less intense. But we don’t live in that world.
Bombardier was careful to show the analysts and reporters material signs of progress. This was clearly an attempt to provide a basis for the company’s confidence in its program timeline. Among the reporters and analysts the typical comments were that they expect the program to run somewhere between three and six months late. By comparison to recent and current industry programs that still be a good performance.
Bombardier’s confidence appears to be based on:
- Its well established supply chain management. The company has assembled established firms to provide parts and has many years of experience in managing a complex global supply chain. Crucial parts, we are advised, have come in at spec. Bombardier’s Ben Boehm remarked that he believes the airplane will be at spec weight at first flight – a remarkable performance, if achieved. P&W’s Bob Saia was present and made it clear the engine will be ready – it has over 1,500 hours of testing and is performing better than expected.
- CIASTA – this resource is de-risking the program. It will have tested many of the systems before first flight and should accelerate the certification process. For example some cabin tests are being undertaken on the ground rather than wait for the first airplane. Here is an picture of their fuselage test model where many cabin tests will be undertaken.
- Mockups – Bombardier is not depending on computers exclusively. They have built a full scale CS100 wooden mockup. This is being used to test and prove the most simple things like space for a mechanic’s fingers to install or work on the APU. On a computer screen you can only do so much. It may seem odd in the 21st century to have a wooden mockup – but this does provide more de-risking.
- Planning – the company is vocal about how much money it has spent up front on this program compared to previous programs. Clearly their experience with the Global Express encouraged this – but so did lessons from Airbus and Boeing. Note that Airbus and Boeing are determined to de-risk their own re-engine programs by limiting the amount of change from current single aisle models.
- Facilities – The Mirabel factory tour showed us how they are laying out the FAL for CSeries. The plans are conservative with deliberate steps to accelerating production. The company has some of the jigs ready for the first fuselage. The key parts are being assembled now (first being checked for weight and other specs) before being brought to Mirabel and lifting on to the jigs. To the right of the linked image, the company showed us their robotic driller. This device will drill holes and insert fasteners. The robot has to drill through layers of different materials which is a highly complex task. The FAL looks ready.
- Timeline – When reviewing the timeline, we managed to work backwards and get some numbers. Planned first flight is by the end of the year. The company wants six weeks with the first flight vehicle prior to first flight. This means it has to be ready no later than mid-November. The parts will be coming to Mirabel September first. The first flight vehicle should be assembled by the end of September. This means the first airplane should be on its wheel by the first week in October. There is very little slack in the schedule. Mike Arcamone, the new CEO of Bombardier Aerospace, spoke about the company working on the schedule 24/7. No kidding; time is very tight.
So in summary, the program by appearances seems to be running almost on time even if there is no slack. Skepticism remains that Bombardier can meet its timelines. Bombardier seems to have gone about doing everything it knows to de-risk the program. But there are always the annoying unknowns. You have to plan for these even though nobody knows for certain where they will crop up. Which is why Mr Arcamone directed the assembled analysts and reporters to focus on delivery dates. This allows some fudging in schedule because at some stage the work up front comes into play and should allow Bombardier to catch up on any delays.