SIX MONTHS ago at the Farnborough Air Show, Bombardier announced that their CSeries programme was on track for first flight before year-end. Pierre Beaudoin, Bombardier inc. president, and Guy Hachey, president of Bombardier Aerospace, were keen to market the company’s unique stand on maintaining an on-time programme, as opposed to the frequent delays on new airliners being released in Seattle and Toulouse. They have since had to rescind that statement and emerge, tail-between-legs, to announce a six-month delay to the first flight and consequent EIS of the CS100.
Cracks in the development timeline for the CSeries began to show soon after the British airshow, when it became clear that the first flying prototype would not be built until mid-October. This would leave just over 2 months for ground testing and proving before taking off for the first time. Incidentally, this aircraft (FTV1) is still in the final assembly line. In late September, Beaudoin remarked that even a 3-6 month delay would have a “minimal impact” on the programme, suggesting that the highly ambitious first flight target was indeed unattainable.
Bombardier have cited issues with suppliers as the main reason for the delay. When asked specifically about fly-by-wire concerns, it was ascertained that these were amongst the most complex and thus likely to be one of the root causes. This parallels the delay of the of the CRJ1000, whose FBW rudder issues held the project back for 10 months. That problem was only fully revealed after commencement of flight-testing. If the CSeries suffers the same fate, this 6 month delay will almost definitely stretch out to much longer.
The 100-149 seat aircraft family has met a frosty reception from airlines, netting only 138 firm orders since being launched in 2008. Since then, Boeing and Airbus have successfully launched refreshed narrowbodies and inked over 1000 firm orders for each. Following through with a number of commitments could boost the CSeries order book to over 200 but this seems unlikely to happen before first flight. Bombardier had hoped to gain 300 firm orders by that milestone, and while the delay does give them more chance to do so, their current track record suggests that this will remain an optimistic goal.