With the two most recent new aircraft programs, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 beset by major delays, will Bombardier be able to bring the CSeries in on time? The program is currently on target, largely due to risk mitigation strategies by Bombardier.
Bombardier has undertaken a major development program with the CSeries, a new technology narrow body aircraft that rivals the A380 and 787 in sophistication. The aircraft will offer a composite wing, aluminum-lithium fuselage, new technology engines and advanced systems throughout the aircraft.
Like the 787, it will be manufactured by an international supply chain, including fuselage construction in China, horizontal stabilizers in Italy, wings in Northern Ireland, engines and avionics from the US, and final assembly in Canada.
Unlike Airbus and Boeing, Bombardier can benefit from their experience and mitigate many of the technology and supply chain risks. With a five-year timeframe for development of the aircraft rather than the traditional 48 month time frame, Bombardier built in a year of slack in the development schedule for the aircraft. This will assist in overcoming unidentified issues that will almost certainly arise in an aircraft development program.
With respect to technologies, Bombardier has chosen to mitigate risks by using both its internal resources and key design tradeoffs that minimize risks. The composite wing for the CSeries is being built internally by Bombardier’s former Shorts facilities in Northern Ireland. With more than 50 years experience in working with composites, Shorts has developed a resin transfer process that is proven, and utilized this in developing a demonstrator wing that has already been tested to 150% wing bending. More recently, the composite wing box and wing have been mated for further testing long before the late 2013 scheduled entry into service.
Other design tradeoffs lower risk, for example the choice of light weight aluminum lithium rather than composites for the fuselage. As a high cycle aircraft that is lower to the ground than a wide body, the CSeries will be more subject to damage from ground support equipment, and required additional durability. Not only does aluminum-lithium provide those benefits, it can be manufactured using mature and proven processes.
Bombardier has long had an international supply chain, with successful processes for integration and quality control. The fuselage for the CSeries will be manufactured in China, which many consider a higher level of risk. Bombardier’s Dash-8 fuselage sections are already manufactured in China, and the CSeries will utilize similar processes, reducing risk. While Alenia, which has experience significant quality issues on the 787 program is also a CSeries supplier, Bombardier is confident that their proven processes for quality control will mitigate the risk of problems such as those experienced by Boeing.
Of course the PW GTF engine is a critical element for the program – and that engine is in its test program and also currently on schedule, with initial performance exceeding expectations. The extra year of slack in the CSeries schedules can mitigate minor supplier delays.
A major risk mitigation strategy from Bombardier is CIASTA, an integrated aircraft testing facility. With six major test areas, including an “iron bird” that can simulate and test all of the systems for the aircraft on the ground, Bombardier has taken pre-production testing to a new level of sophistication. Having used a similar but much less sophisticated system during the development of the Global Express, Bombardier engineers are building on their prior success.
Bottom Line: Despite claims by Boeing in Randy’s Blog that Bombardier would likely experience problems similar to those experience on the 787, it appears that Bombardier has a strong risk mitigation program in place. Time will tell whether they can bring the program in on schedule, but right now things look positive.