The first CS100 intended for commercial service being assembled.
Bombardier’s announcement: revising the entry into service (EIS) of the CSeries: came as a surprise to noone. You didn’t even need company insiders to leak information about the slow progress of the test flight campaign. The media front-ending is clue enough: the lack of updates, and the general lowly feeling : gave away a test flight campaign with nothing much to talk about.
Bombardier isn’t the first manufacturer to declare intensive test flight campaigns and program milestones, only to show the world that their program management planning wasn’t planned at all. The trend has been in alphabetical order: Airbus – Boeing – Bombardier. The Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 programs talked of entry into service dates that were too good, only to be found later that that they were too good to be true.
For Airbus, the A380 was a first: in terms of size, wiring, and a level of coordination in design that was not well coordinated. For Boeing, the airplane was, technically, a new design, with many firsts: technical and production, leading to software issues, and supply issues.
The graph below shows how unique, technically challenging, and possibly operationally “disruptive” airplane programs, show longer periods between the first flight & entry into service (EIS). The A300 was Airbus’ first airplane; the A340 was Airbus’ first quad-jet. The A350 has nothing special about it: it builds upon the A380’s avionics & software; the only thing new is the extent of use of composites. 12 months for the program should be doable.
Legend: Blue: Past programs, Red: programs with significant gap between FF & EIS, Orange: Programs in progress.
In comparison to the A380 and the 787 programs, the CSeries is a “stranger” airplane for Bombardier. It is Bombardier’s first all new airliner design (the CRJ series is a derivative of the Challenger from Canadair, the Q400 is a modification of De-Havilland’s turboprop offering), the manufacturer’s first airplane so big, the first airplane in the world to fly with the PW1000G Geared Turbofan Engine (never before has such a large GTF ever flown), the companies first fly-by-wire aircraft, Bombardier’s first foray into designing an all composite wing for a commercial aircraft, and the first use of Al-Li on such scale on a narrowbody aircraft.
It is so new, that it is to Bombardier what the 787 is to Boeing. A great airplane, promising excellent fuel savings, but exhibiting a huge leap in technology & process: a toxic combination that introduces too many variables in one go.
The CSeries program has pushed the first deliverers by nine months to the second half of 2015, taking the time between first flight and EIS to a projected 21 months. The CS300, is expected to enter service 6 months later.
That is terrible news for Bombardier: The CS300 is expected to enter service in early 2016.
The CSeries was the very aircraft that made Airbus and Boeing reengine their airplane. But with the A320NEO planned to enter service in 2015, the popular single aisle family, which members A319NEO and A320NEO compete directly & indirectly with the CS300, will be available earlier, and with a better appeal: thanks to a proven airframe: the A320 family’s. Considering that Airbus can afford upto 25% off on the list prices, the A319NEO can be sold for for US$70.8M, about US$7M costlier than the CS300’s list price. The CS300 burns lesser fuel than the A319NEO, and is expected to have the same operating cost per seat as the A320NEO. The CS300 still has an appeal: massive appeal. Technically that is, operationally: uncertain.
“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.
But questions still linger in the minds of most: with so much so new to Bombardier, how reliable will the airplane be? Will the CSeries become the narrowbody “Dreamliner”?
“I remember when we had very strong demand for A319s, then it shifted to the larger capacity A320 version…and we’re now seeing very, very strong demand for A321s", explained John Leahy, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer – Customers, during the 2013-2032 Global Market Forecast press briefing in September, 2013.
Almost a month later, the US Based carrier JetBlue Airways, deferred deliveries of its 100 seat Embraer 190 aircraft, ordering instead 35 Airbus A320 family aircraft: 20 A321NEO and 15 A320CEO aircraft. The airline seeks to reduce costs with the Airbus A320 aircraft which burn less fuel per seat, but with a largr capacity: 150 passengers for the A320 and 190 passengers for the A321.
Back home, and one month before JetBlue’s decision to focus on larger capacity aircraft, the “JetBlue of India”, IndiGo, opted for 20 Airbus A321NEO aircraft, of its 180 all A320 order back in 2011, exercising the option that was inked in the deal.
Airlines, which stayed away from the A321, which accounts for 20% of all Airbus A320 family (A318, A319 CEO+NEO ,A320CEO+NEO, A321CEO+NEO) orders, are now leaning toward the A321NEO because it promises the affordable operating costs that otherwise kept airlines at bay: different aircraft sub-type, and higher operating cost. Suddenly, the A321NEO’s reduced operating costs, thanks to the fuel saving sharklets and the PW1100G Geared Turbofan Engine, make the added 20-30seats affordably attractive.
To the airlines, higher seat capacity at reduced operating costs means higher profit potential. Note potential.
Statistically, the best performing airline in the country, IndiGo, has the best load factors,: an average of 81.4% over 5 years from 2009-2013, with the highest being 83.8% in 2010. IndiGo’s added capacity, and demand has grown, but the effect on load factors has been nil; the average load factors remain more or less constant. So getting larger airplanes will not have a significant impact on load factors, but may slightly increase profits per flight on account of the reduced operating cost per seat.
Indigo’s single-type fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft can accommodate 180 passengers. 83.8% load factor corresponds to 150 seats. So why not replace the fleet with A319s?
A 150 seat airplane like the Airbus A319, or its direct competitor, the Boeing 737-700 is costlier to operate, per seat, as a shorter aircraft isn’t as optimized as the longer aircraft it was derived from. But what if you had an aircraft with a cost per seat as much as that of the A320NEO (which is claimed to be 15% more efficient than the A320 CEO), but with 150 seats? This would make the aircraft cheaper to operate, have lower capacity but push load factors closer to 100%, while keeping the fares low, or possibly lower than the competition.
The smaller, efficient aircraft, like what Bombardier claims of its CSeries CS300, has lesser seats to sell to break even, has the same cost per seat as the A320NEO, costs lesser to operate, but doesn’t have to fly with many empty seats if the tickets are priced low, or lower than the competition, and the brand marketed well.
Assuming that the breakeven load factor (BELF) for a particular, fixed operating environment is 70% for the Airbus A320NEO, and assuming that the CSeries CS300 fitted with 150 seats has a similar BELF, then with the A320NEO, the airline must sell 126 seats to break even, while sell only 105 seats on the CS300 to break even. Considering the average of 150 seats occupied, per flight, on average, the A320NEO flies 24 passengers contributing to the airline’s profits, while the CSeries CS300 flies 45 passengers contributing to the airline’s profits. Of course, if both aircraft flew with 100% load factors, on a dense route, the A320 gets 54 passengers contributing to profits, but that is only a potential, not a guarantee.
Unfortunately, airline pricing and BELF aren’t so simple, but this gives you a rough idea of what is possible with the CSeries CS300 in the Indian market.
For those who didn’t get it: What’s possible is an all CS300-fleet airline, that shoots right into profitability, defeating the competition. Is it this simple? Only IF Bombardier delivers its promise of meeting the projected costs per seat, and if Bombardier’s not-that-great image relating to aircraft dispatch reliability and maintenance issues are sorted: something that will be a challenge considering that almost everything about the aircraft, including the very design, is new, and without decades of airframe maturity like that of Airbus’s or Boeing’s narrowbody market leaders.
The conundrum: Increase capacity and increase both the profit potential as well as the risk of a loss on a route, should the loads go either ways. Decrease capacity and introduce a stronger element of predictability and control, but lowering the profit potential.
Three and a half months after the first C Series took to the skies, the second Flight Test Vehicle, FTV2, registered C-GWYD, took off from Montréal International (Mirabel) Airport on 3rd January, 2014, climbed to 13,000ft, touched 180knots. The maiden flight lasted 2hrs 15 minutes. When compared to the A350’s program, which has a similar target of certifying the aircraft within 12 months with 5 test aircraft, the CSeries’ CS100 FTV2, has taken to the skies almost 2 weeks earlier.
The 5 CS100s will later be joined by 2 CS300s. Interestingly, Bombardier plans the CS300s for a later stage in the testing, when the CS300 accounts for close to 65% of all CSeries Orders (182). In contrast, the A350-900XWB, which accounts for 67% of the 814 orders, is the model that is flying in the test flight campaign.
Says Rob Dewar, Vice President and General Manager, CSeries Program ,“While FTV1 is the initial test vehicle validating the flight envelope, FTV2 testing will complement the existing knowledge we have gained from FTV1 – all of which will ensure the accuracy and efficiency of the data collected. Specifically, we will look to FTV2 to test the aircraft systems and its redundancies, including the brand-new avionics suite, in addition to measuring the aircraft’s performance. The ongoing momentum of the CSeries flight test program has been an energizing experience for the team, and we are eager to apply the knowledge gained from FTV1 and FTV2 to the following flight test vehicles, which will also take flight this new year."
Highlights: The death of the 70 seat regional jet market, shifting market trends, and what airlines seem to trend on: affordable capacity.
50 seat regional jets heralded a new way to travel. Comfort and speed were real reasons, and offering a jet to regional customers, as opposed to a turboprop aircraft, suddenly seemed very attractive. The Embraer ERJ 145, introduced in 1996, and the Bombardier CRJ 100/200, introduced in 1992, both extremely popular 50 seat airplanes, sold 708 airplanes and 935 airplanes, respectively.
Regional aviation only continued to grow, fuelled by more efficient jets that promised good operating economics. According to Bombardier’s study in 1998, there was a growing requirement for larger aircraft in the fleets of the world’s regional airlines. To keep up with the growth in mainline fleets, Bombardier felt that regional fleet must grow in both size and capacity. The company felt that if the regional fleet did not grown beyond 50 seats, the number of 50-seaters required to satisfy demand would quadruple.
Because of this growth, regional airplanes grew in capacity, to match demand. The CRJ 700, a 70 seat regional jet from Bombardier, was introduced in 2001, and the competing Embraer 170 was introduced to airline service in 2004. As airplanes grew in size, the operational costs per seat started to fall, further opening up regional aviation to larger airplanes while gradually declining the smaller regional jet market. The market shifted, and continues to shift towards larger sized regional jets.
The CRJ 100/200 is no longer in production. In 2008, the Embraer 145 had 733 firm orders, which slumped to 708 in 2009, and has remained at that figure, over 4 years till date. By 2011, all orders had been realised through deliveries. The 50 seat jet market effectively and statistically died many, many years ago.
The CRJ 700, when introduced, did exceedingly well. Between 2000 and 2010, the order book grew by 160%, to 344 firm orders. The Embraer 170, which had a late start, touched 194 firm orders in 2009. While these were fairly good figures, the market shift hadn’t stopped.
The Embraer 190, and the CRJ 900 have seen the greatest sales growth. The E-190, when introduced in 2005 with JetBlue, had 185 firm orders. This has seen a fairly steady, and unparalleled growth to 560 in 2013: a growth of 200%. The CRJ1000 was Bombardier’s answer to the E-190, but that entered service very late, almost 5 years later, in December 2010, but firm orders stand at only 70, as of July 2013. The CRJ1000 is not much of a competitor to the E-190; The longest range version of the jet, 1,622NM, falls short of the shortest range version of the E-190: E-190STD at 1800NM. The E-190AR has a range of 2400NM.
While there was such encouraging growth in sales of 100 seat airplanes, The CRJ700 stopped building orders after 2010. In fact, after 2010, 4 firm orders were lost, with the number lazily bouncing back to 347 in 2013. After 2009, The Embraer 170’s firm orders only reduced, and hasn’t recovered since. It’s not the manufacturer. It’s the market, and the 70 seat regional jet isn’t favoured anymore. As of Sep 2013, there is a backlog of only 6 E-170, of which 2 are for Japan Airlines and 4 for ETA Star Aviation, India.
The 78-88 (80) seat E-175 is the next-best received aircraft. Orders for the type are nowhere close to that of its longer, 100 seat E-190, and had stagnated for more than 1 year in the period after 2011, at the level of the dead-market E-170. A sudden surge in orders, of 65% to 315 in 2013, is thanks to Skywest, which placed a large enough order for the type. The 90 seat CRJ900, has 306 firm orders in 2013, and witnessed a 380% surge in orders between 2005 and 2007.
A 2000NM range airplane with the ability to carry 100 passengers has been the hottest selling cake. Add another 16 to 24 seats and the offering, the E-195, isn’t quite as attractive. Bombardier’s response to the E-195 is the 125 CS100, and the unique, hitherto unmatched offering is the 135-160 seat CS300.
Proof that the market is shifting away from 70 seat jets is the fact that Embraer, that has moved forward with its plans to re-engine, significantly re-engineer and update the E-Jets to a “Second generation" of E2 jets, has the E-195-E2, the E-190-E2, and the E-175-E2, but no plans at all for the E-170-E2.
The market needs higher capacity airplanes for greater flexibility, provided that it doesn’t come at the cost of economics and performance. With economically better performing or promising airplanes hitting the market, “affordable capacity" is the market demand.
And since the E-175-E2 is planned for a 2020 Entry into service (EIS): the last amongst all re-engined E-Jets, it’s a sign of the 80 seat regional jetliner’s grave being prepared, next.
*This section is part of a much bigger, comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
Robert “Rob" Dewar, Vice President and General Manager, C-Series, Bombardier Commercial Program, gave a brief insight into the certification program of the C-Series, one month after it’s first flight on the 16th of September, 2013.
The C-Series is poised to usher in a new era for Bombardier, while posing as a market threat for popular Airbus and Boeing single aisle aircraft.
There have been a total of 3 test flights till date.
The landing gear and certification tests have been completed for the shimmy. Shimmy is an unstable lateral (yaw) vibration, typically in the range of 10 to 30Hz, which can lead to structural damage and/or collapse of the landing gear. Landing gear as seen on aircraft such as the Airbus A320 family, Boeing 737NG family and the C-Series, among others, are twin wheeled cantilevered, and such landing gears may experience shimmy stability problems at low speeds, and must be tested to validate the design of the landing gear against shimmy.
The ground vibration test of the aircraft is in progress. This testing is part of the plane’s certification program. Selected parts of the aircraft are excited with an external oscillatory force. By observing the aircraft’s response to these vibrations, engineers can model the aircraft’s transfer functions and determine the airplane’s in-flight stability.
These tests results will be compiled and will determine when the airplane takes to the skies for the fourth time, when the test flight envelope will be further opened up. The last three flights have witnessed the C-Series reaching an altitude of 25,000ft, landing gear extension and retraction cycles, tests of both high lift devices: the slats and flaps, and other in-flight manoeuvres.
The aircraft’s performance an handling closely matches the predicted flight model in the simulator. Bombardier is using a Engineering Flight Simulator (ESIM),built by CAE, from the last one year to test actual flight systems and system controllers when integrated in the aircraft, such as the slat-flap computer, fly-by-wire computer, landing gear computer, APU-simulator, brake computers, the PW1500G Engine FADECs (Full Authority Digital Engine Computer), and so forth. Using this ESIM, the flight test program can rely a lot on the simulator to do a lot of the system and integration tests while also preparing flight test crew for various flight test exercises. This builds the confidence of the crew in the aircraft, while also helping complete real flight test exercises with higher success rates and lower risks. System testing has entered the certification testing phase.
Bombardier find the structural test results, in the certification phase, very pleasing. Testing on the cabin management system as well as the environmental control system are in progress.
The CS100 Flight Test Vehicles (FTV) 2, 3, 4, and 5, as well as the first production aircraft are in very advanced stages of final assembly at Mirabel. The larger CS-300’s first major fuselage section is being transported, expected to arrive at the presently non-optimised-for-the-C-Series Mirabel facility.
Which is why the construction of a new 667,000 sq-ft plant, located close to its current facilities in the vicinity of the airport in Mirabel, Quebec, entirely dedicated to the assembly of the CSeries family of aircraft, is progressing well.
According to Charles “Chuck" Ellis, Chief Flight Test Pilot C-Series, emphasising on the need for so many flight test vehicles, “We say it’s (certification program) a one year program but within that one year we’ll probably be doing 5 years of work. We can take one year and 5 airplanes, or 5 airplanes and one year"
Now that the ESIM’s flight and system model has been verified, it will making the certification easier and faster by offering a lot of flexibility and bandwidth in the C-Series certification program, as it is almost like having a 6th airplane in the fleet.