De-risking CSeries–but margin is gone
Note to Readers: In May, we attended the Pratt & Whitney media day, followed by the Airbus Innovation Days the same month and then the Boeing Pre-Farnborough Press Briefings over two days. This week we attended the Bombardier Farnborough Briefing. Boeing’s briefings are embargoed to July 5. We’re still digesting the PW event to tie information to news in the near future. Bombardier released its 20 year forecast, but we plan to tie that to information that was discussed at the embargoed Boeing briefings.
Bombardier made news with its statement that CSeries is on time. We dug a little deeper, however, and confirmed what had been hinted by Bombardier officials much earlier: that there is no margin left between now and the planned first flight by year-end.
At the same time, we received a run-down on some specific component areas that have been highlighted by analysts as risk areas. Here we go:
Staying on schedule: New Aerospace division CEO Mike Aracome insisted BBD is on schedule for first flight by year-end. He was less precise when the first flight test airplane is to roll-out, but it appears that it will be anytime from September-on.
The Milestone that’s more important: Arcamone tried to downplay the roll-out and first flight Milestones as less important than the Entry-into-Service (late 4Q2013 for the CS100 and a year later for the CS300)–which is true enough, but which reporters and aerospace analysts present later commented among themselves as attempting to minimize target dates that are coming up that might be missed.
Alenia: This company is building the horizontal stabilizer for the CSeries, and of course gained notoriety by thoroughly giving Boeing headaches for problems with the tail section and tailplanes on the 787. Rob Dewar, vice president of CSeries, told us that BBD has had a team embedded at Alenia since early in the program and there was weekly status calls with him, sometimes more, to be sure things are on track.
Shenyang Aircraft: This Chinese company is building the fuselage and is a source of risk concern. Dewar tells us that Shenyang has produced the first fuselage sections and points out that it now produces the entire fuselage for the Q400. BBD also has a team there to monitor progress and identify problems.
Compressing the schedule: Dewar confirmed to us there is no margin left between now and first flight, so there has been a program underway to compress the schedule. BBD assembled a team to identify 1,000 ways to speed things along; so far, 330 have been implemented. Dewar also told us that he’s not prepared to step up and say first flight could be delayed in order to keep the pressure on the employees and suppliers. If you relax the schedule, he said, you then risk relaxing the production chain and workers.
First flight to EIS: Arcamone said there will be five CS100s and two CS300s for flight tests (the latter obviously coming much later). Dewar told us that there is an 11 month schedule for flight testing but it theoretically could be done in eight. The extra three months–which he expects will be required–are for the unknowns that typically pop up.
Static test airplane: Dewar said this won’t be assembled until the fourth quarter.
Delays: no BBD official would entertain the prospect of delays. Talk among journalists is three-six months.
Market Forecast: BBD lowered its 20 year forecast for 100-149 seats to 6,900 from 7,000, based on a lower global GDP forecast. We’ll have much more about this after the Boeing embargo is lifted, at which time we’ll include the Boeing forecast, their comments on this market segment, and why BBD thinks it’s right and Boeing isn’t.
Pratt & Whitney GTF for CSeries: Bob Saia, VP of PW for the GTF program, was also present at the BBD briefing and said this engine has surpassed 1,500 hours of testing. Some of the bird-strike testing has been completed with the final tests to come shortly.