Bombardier Aerospace has confirmed that the Entry-Into-Service (EIS) of their CSeries aircraft is now scheduled for the second half of 2015.
Yesterday’s announcement likely wasn’t a surprise to industry watchers and financial analysts, who have believed that Bombardier’s previous “one year after first flight” EIS of September 2014 was overly optimistic and aggressive. The CSeries is Bombardier’s first “clean-sheet” design in decades, with state-of-the-art fly-by-wire flight controls, along with sophisticated, highly-integrated aircraft systems. Bombardier is no doubt hoping that the new EIS schedule will be looked at as realistic and achievable, given the work to be done.
“We are taking the required time to ensure a flawless entry-into-service. We are very pleased that no major design changes have been identified, this gives us confidence that we will meet our performance targets,” said Mike Arcamone, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “While the process has taken more time than we had expected, our suppliers are aligned with the program’s schedule and together, we will continue to work closely to move the program steadily forward.”
The 110-to-130-seat CS100 will be the first to enter service, followed about six months later by the larger CS300, which will seat between 130 and 160 passengers. The CSeries has been designed to fill what Bombardier sees as a “sweet spot” in capability between the Embraer E-Jets and the single-aisle Airbus A320 series and Boeing’s 737s. Its advanced features and new-tech Pratt & Whitney PW1524G PurePower geared turbofans are expected to give operators significant operating savings over current planes. The CSeries will have five-across seating in economy, in a 3-2 layout, with 18½” and 19” wide seats. Seat width has become a hot topic of late, and the CSeries might just have the best economy class of any single-aisle aircraft. I’ve visited the cabin mockup, and I found the CSeries cabin well-designed and comfortable.
CSeries CS100 Flight Test Vehicle 1 (FTV1) had its first flight at Montreal’s Mirabel Airport (YMX) just over four months ago, on September 16th, 2013. Since then, FTV1 & FTV2 have flown a total of 52 hours, a small percentage of the planned 2,400-hour flight test program. FTV3 was just turned over to Bombardier’s Flight Test Division last week, and should join its sisters in the air soon. CS100 FTV4 & 5 will follow, along with two CS300 flight test aircraft. And in addition to work required for the flight test program, Bombardier is building a new CSeries factory at Mirabel.
This year’s challenging winter weather at YMX certainly hasn’t helped the CSeries flight test program. So to help keep the program on track, yesterday FTV1 flew from Mirabel to Bombardier’s Flight Test Centre in Wichita, Kansas (KICT), looking for better weather for the continuing test flights.
While industry watchers may have expected yesterday’s announcement, it’s likely that Bombardier’s airline customers weren’t particularly happy about it. Fleet planning is an art, and delivery delays can play havoc with an airline’s development plans. This delay may also have an impact on new orders from potential customers, such as Air Canada. But depending on an airline’s requirements, the revised EIS might be a positive change and fit better with fleet planning.
Along with the change to the EIS, Bombardier announced an addition to the CSeries order book with a firm order from Al Qahtani Aviation Company for 16 CS300s, and options for 10 more CS300s. The aircraft will be operated by SaudiGulf Airlines, a newly launched national carrier for the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia. SaudiGulf Airlines is the third CSeries customer in the Middle East. And Sweden’s Malmö Aviation was confirmed as the first airline operator of the CSeries.
The CSeries has 198 firm orders from 17 customers, plus 247 options for a total of 445 aircraft. Bombardier has set a “300 firm orders by EIS” target, which now looks more achievable with this change in schedule. Now all that has to happen is for the CSeries to meet its performance and manufacturing targets. It’s still a daunting objective, but Bombardier has now given themselves some breathing room.