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May 26, 2024
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Bombardier started 2014 with the first flight of the second CSeries test aircraft, nicknamed FTV2 on January 3rd.  Originally expected to fly about a month after the FTV1, which flew in September, this vehicle, like its brethren, was rumored to be delayed by software updates to the fly-by-wire system, but is finally airborne.

images-1There are two key reasons this flight test aircraft is critical:

First, Bombardier is behind schedule on flight testing, and needs all five aircraft to fly more frequently to complete the 2,500 hours required in the certification plan.  Currently, with FTV1 flying only four times in the first five weeks following the first flight, there is a lot of catching up to do on the schedule.  Most analysts now believe that Bombardier will not be able to meet its September 2014 delivery schedule to Malmo Airlines, which was scheduled for 12 months after first flight, and now consider first quarter 2015 to be more realistic given the progress in the flight testing program.  The rapid introduction of the other three flight test aircraft will help build confidence that Bombardier has overcome the final “unknown-unknown” delay to the program.

We note that it remains mathematically possible for Bombardier to meet its schedule – as five aircraft flying five hours per day could complete 2,500 hours in 100 days.  But that’s asking a lot, especially since data need to be analyzed between flights, faults corrected, and the paperwork process being completed as rapidly as possible.  We expect a lot of late nights for engineers gearing up for 24×7 flight test operations to make up time as much time as possible in the schedule – but getting back on schedule at this point is asking a lot.  Weather has slowed flight tests so far,  and the latest weather is simply awful.

Second, FTV2 will be the aircraft that verifies CSeries economic performance, including verification of fuel burn predictions.  While preliminary numbers look to be on track, FTV2 will be flying typical routes and loads by which performance can be confirmed.  Several potential customers, including Air Canada and Monarch, are waiting for actual performance data before committing to the aircraft, which FTV2 will provide over the next few months.  If the numbers prove out, we would expect a successful Farnborough Air Show.

Bombardier is 118 firm orders short of its goal for 300 orders by entry into service.  However, if existing options are converted, that goal would be easily met.  Securing some additional customers, and having an firm order and option book of more than 600 would go a long way to assuage analyst fears that the market has moved away from the 100-150 seat segment that produced more than 2,600 sales for the A319 and 737-700.

With so much riding on FTV2, it is encouraging to see it finally in the air, albeit three months after its expected first flight.

2 thoughts on “Why Bombardier’s Second C-Series Test Aircraft is Critical

  1. If we compare the CSeries flight testing campaign to the one for the Airbus A350-900 or the Boeing 787-9 it is obvious that Bombardier is struggling. But on the other hand if we do the same comparison with other similar programmes around the world it is becoming increasingly evident that BBD will soon be part of the major leagues.

  2. The program has issues, not unexpected though not good to have them this early.

    You can only stay tuned. I think its an outstanding aircraft and as there is nothing like it, it should do well long term. Getting there of course is the big issue and right now its not getting there.

    I expect the problems will be overcome but also not easily and bogus statements put out that its the quality of the flight time not the quantity that counts is pure prop wash. It takes both, as Boeing found out, there is no test as good as having lot of hours and even then they barely scraped by the destroyed electrical panel (with pax in flight? bad bad bad) and the battery issue did not manifest itself until numbers were in service.

    Bombadier should have done it all in house then farmed out, from that they did not learn from Boeing

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