We had the opportunity to speak with Rob Dewar, Vice President and General Manager, CSeries Program, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft after the initial CSeries operations at London City Airport earlier today.
AirInsight: Thanks for being with us today. Rob, the approach at LCY is quite steep. What were the requirements that the CSeries needed to demonstrate to gain access to this relatively short 4,900 ft. runway?
Rob Dewar: Basically, London city has a short runway, and more importantly a very steep approach. Normal approaches are at 3 degrees, and LCY is 5.5 degrees, We had to demonstrate a 7.5 degree approach to obtain approval for landing at LCY. Because the CS100 has very low drag, we had to utilize several elements to manage the descent rate. These include going to minimum idle with the engine to generate additional drag. We also have a special flap setting – flap 5 – and modify the fly-by-wire control laws to enable a larger deflection of the spoilers to further increase drag during a steep descent.
The CS100 is the largest aircraft, with the most capability, to operate out of that airport. The wingspan limit is 115 feet to provide clearance from infrastructure, mostly the space between gates, which is quite limited. We also need to do a u-turn on the runway, so the landing gear had to be designed for that during our initial design phase.
We have a pilot selectable steep-approach option that enables a different set of control laws to be employed, as in normal mode an approach that steep would result in the systems requesting corrective action. Swiss, our launch customer, also requested dual HUDs with runway guidance built-in to assist their pilots in following the proper approach angle.
In addition to the aircraft, all pilots into LCY also require special training and qualification. The steep approach capabilities are standard on all CS100 models, which are approved for LCY. There have as yet been no customer requests for the CS300 to be so certified, and there are currently no plans in place, given the large step change in size and range from existing smaller aircraft using LCY to the larger CS100.
AirInsight: The CSeries was designed with an eye towards city-center airports such as London City, Stockholm Bromma, and Toronto Billy Bishop. What factors were specifically included in designing the aircraft for these, and other urban airport applications?
Rob Dewar: There are a number of key points we included when designing the aircraft. The first is having the required performance, since many airports are smaller and more restricted, with obstacles to climb over or mountains. Florence and Aspen are good examples. We performed a worldwide study of challenging airports, including high altitude airports like Lhasa in Tibet to determine what we would need for take-off and landing performance requirements.
Two keys emerged, one is having a small enough aircraft to fit within the existing infrastructure, and the second the need to have an environmental footprint suitable for a city center operation – noise and emissions needed to be a step change improvement from existing aircraft. The CSeries has a fourfold decrease in noise, and a lot of the people nearby LCY will also soon begin to appreciate it.
AirInsight:. With CSeries performance exceeding the original specifications, the combination of short-field capability and long-range performance enable the CSeries to do things that no other commercial aircraft is capable of performing. What other challenging airports and locales would be ideal for the CSeries combination of performance and environmental stewardship?
Rob Dewar: There are many potential airports beyond London City. Toronto Billy Bishop, Florence, Italy, are challenging short fields and Lhasa in Tibet is a hot, high altitude airport that requires exceptional performance. The CSeries has the capability to fly Lhasa to Beijing and Shanghai non-stop with a full load, the only aircraft of its size with that capability. Aspen is also a critical route for high, hot performance. Because so few aircraft can fly them, many of these routes have exceptionally high yields and can demand a revenue premium. The CSeries is an ideal solution to optimize traffic and yields.
One unique capability is the ability to fly direct from smaller city center airports for long-range routes, without the need to stop and change aircraft at a major hub. We’ve already published an improvement to our initial specification on certification, and based on in-service performance that is better than what we published, we will be upgrading our specifications again in the fall, with lower fuel burn and increased range. There is a lot of good news that we’re seeing from the aircraft already in-service.
AirInsight: We understand that dispatch reliability is better than expected at both SWISS and airBaltic, and both carriers are pleased with the aircraft. Is there any feedback on in-service performance you can share?
Rob Dewar: To date, the in-service performance in terms of initial reliability is exceeding expectations. In terms of passenger acceptance, the reception has been quite favorable. SWISS has done a number of surveys with their Platinum frequent flyer members, and have received very favorable feedback on the cabin experience, including cabin comfort, the reduced noise level compared to other aircraft, and the large bins to accommodate larger carry-on bags. We’re pleased with what we’re hearing.
AirInsight: Thanks for taking the time to be with us on an important milestone day for the program.