We continue to watch the three ongoing flight test programs with great interest. All three programs are showing progress. We will first deal with the three programs and then with each separately.
The A350 program continues to rack up hours. So does the 787-9; with the proviso that the hours shown are likely lower than actual. Boeing advised us: “Boeing is executing a comprehensive test program for the 787-9 Dreamliner, which will span some 1,500 flight hours. (We don’t provide a duration in months because, by its very nature, flight testing is dynamic.) We’re very pleased with our progress and are on track for certification in the spring, followed by first delivery in mid-2014.” Bombardier got off to a slow start and compared to the other two programs.
We continue to believe that there is an excellent chance the A350 set for delivery to Qatar (MSN004) could be handed over early. The flight test program looks to be in good shape – 44.6% of the hours accumulated in in 42% of the time. The Boeing story is, as described above, less clear given the opaque information. However various sources express the view that Boeing is doing very well and is set to deliver to Air New Zealand on time. Bombardier‘s program shows how much the slow start has impacted. However to their credit they got their third aircraft flying yesterday (FTV3). Since all flight test programs are back-loaded, they could catch a lot of the time. For example, although they have allotted 22 months, if tests go as anticipated it could be possible they only need 16 months rather than all 22.
Airbus now has all four aircraft in test. We expect the hours to accelerate even faster when we update next month. However we note with interest that MSN001 showed no hours in February.
As one would expect with a derivative, the program is showing steady progress. We think the aircraft had few secrets as the -8 tested Boeing, ensuring the company went into the -9 tests with great deliberation.
The CSeries program got off to a slow start. Bombardier has said part of the issue here was an appalling winter. FTV1 was moved to Wichita to get around that problem. As we can see FTV1 saw a sharp jump in hours in February. To get back on track the program needs to see an average of 144 flight hours per month. Even with FTV3 joining the test program, that is going to be tough to accomplish. The recent program delay was clearly a good thing to give managers and crews more time. In Bombardier’s defense, the program is by far the most complex they have undertaken. The learning curve is every bit as steep as the red line in the chart.