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.

36 Comments on “De-risking CSeries–but margin is gone

  1. Hello Scott
    Thank you for the update
    Waiting for Airbus and Boeing also

    Refering to

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/avd_06_20_2012_p01-01-469170.xml&p=1

    Bombardier expects to have the first static test airframe ready by the end of September, followed by completion of the first flight test aircraft in December, with the major aircraft structures ready several months ahead of that. According to Bombardier, the CS100/CS300 still is on budget and the cash burn is within the previously defined limits.

    So Roll out might no be from September-on.

    Did I miss something ?

    Thanks

    • We already did Airbus.

      BBD is doing things in parallel, not consecutively. Illustrates how tight the program is.

  2. Having inspectors embedded with the suppliers to monitor progress and identify problems is good, but does in no way imply that all parts will be on time and on spec.
    Is there any visible evidence yet that Alenia has produced any hardware for ship #1?
    Assembling the static test article in 4Q ahead of a first flight in 4Q?
    Flight tests could be done in 8 month? Hmm, there was another EOM making that claim before.

    “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.”

    That’s the usual not-so-smart excuse for ignoring the obvious. This is breeding rather mor delays, as the number of design and manufacturing errors is exponentially proportional to time pressure.

    • BBD has received tail sections from Alenia. But in all honestly, we wouldn’t know if the thing was produced correctly by looking at it any more than we could look at the 787 components and tell by looking if they had been done correctly or not.

      Eight months for test flight: yes, we noted to ourselves the similarity, but Dewar was quick to say he expects to take the 11 months.

      • leehamnet :
        BBD has received tail sections from Alenia. But in all honestly, we wouldn’t know if the thing was produced correctly by looking at it any more than we could look at the 787 components and tell by looking if they had been done correctly or not.

        But others would. There was striking evidence provided by images from early 787 production.

      • BBD expanded the number of Flight Test hours on this program from an original estimate of 1800, to around 2400. I’m not aware that they added any flight test aircraft to the program. Have they explained how they can manage this?

        At this point it’s painfully obvious BBD is late. Severely late, 3 to 6 months would be an ASPIRATION at this point. I don’t understand why they are jerking everyone’s chain on this. If they were to roll out in September, they would have had to start final assembly at a minimum of last month. Of course by their original schedule it should have started LAST YEAR. Obviously that didn’t happen.

    • “That’s the usual not-so-smart excuse for ignoring the obvious.”

      Seems like Bombardier is not ignoring the obvious, but is rather publicly acknowledging the potential of a delay (unlike certain other “blue chip” OEMs) but has deliberately, and publicly, chosen not to announce an official delay in order to keep the pressure up.

      The very fact that he stated why he is not going to state that a potential first flight delay exists pretty well proves the point.

      • We’ll point out that we heard privately several times Boeing chose not to announce extended delays in the 787 program for the same reason: to keep pressure up on suppliers and employees. On the other hand, Airbus chose to bite the bullet and announce a year’s delay on the A380 rather than pursue the “creeping delay” strategy. One can debate which is the better course.

      • Yes, comes down to “there already *is* a delay but we are not going to announce it right now”

      • “Keeping up the pressure” is a vacuous statement from Boeings side. Just exerting pressure to see if something gives or not is unprofessional.

        In contrast to BBD Boeing never seemed to know much about their supplier internal situation beyond them being late or not.

        Having tech savy liaison at your suppliers is imho mandatory.
        Trust formed from mutual deep(er?) understanding.
        You can’t write “trust” down in a contract.

  3. My point was that both of the big boys chose, at first, not to let anything leak out. Airbus waited a very long time before they admitted bein in trouble and Boeing kept saying all was good until they could no longer hide it (first flight 3 months after “rollout”, first flight by the end of the major air show of the year etc.). Perhaps one could argue the people coming out with these statements weren’t properly informed but I find that pretty damning itself.

  4. Wonder if the A350 will be futher delayed, these seem to be the times we live in, anything gets fubar. Did we lose some IQ between 1960 and now?

    • No, things just got monumentally more complex. Several orders of magnitude more complex.

  5. Promises only engage people who trust in , isn’t it ??

    I just hope to See the C-100 at le Bourget !
    And EIS for .. Farnborough 2014 !

    My worries !
    – Not even seen the tail nor any body section …
    – P&W is not so ahead than I was hoping … and it may induct some delay for the PW1100G
    – With the past experience of the Challenger 650 trials, I just think Bombardier has to become a little more cautious !
    One year trials seems to be a prudential lapse !

  6. Guru Josh :
    I don’t see how this could serve any fit-check or systems installation validation purpose. Moreover, six months before first flight I’d expect such a mock-up to be complete with all systems fitted. Certainly not suited for validating the digital mock-up. Is this another ‘Potemkin’ hoax?

    We must see this wooden mockup as a complement to CATIA, where the Iron Bird is located. It is part of the parallel processing to which Scott alluded to.

    As an example, the ground equipment can be tested in the environment of the wooden mockup long before a real airplane is available. Simulations of removal/installation can be performed on various aircraft parts, like the APU for example. The workers environment can also be evaluated this way.

    It’s the closest thing to the real thing, before the real thing is available. They save a lot of time this way. Apparently a team of key people was assigned the task of finding at least 1000 potential improvements that could me made. According to one report they have already discovered 600 improvements they will be made to the aircraft program.

    I have noticed that on this thread this mockup is synonym with muck up. But believe me, Airbus and Boeing aren’t laughing at all.

    • The Iron Bird usually is for testing the functionality without fully representing the physical shape, while a mock-up usually is non-functional for validating the fit of installed parts. That means the mock-up has to be fully representative of the real thing in shape, inside and out. This mock-up does not look representative on the inside to me , so I am asking myself how a systems installation validation check could be done on it. This mock-up is incomplete and lacking fidelity.
      As it is, it could still serve some of the purposes you describe, but it cannot really verify the digital mock-up, i.e. the CATIA model, and does not reduce the risk of internal fit issues and major assembly issues. But these are the real concerns, if I understand correctly.

      • You would have understood properly if I had expressed myself appropriately. But I made the same mistake here that I did in the post below: I used the word CATIA, but I had CIASTA in mind. It is a typo, or a lapsus if you prefer. I apologize for the confusion it brought to the discussion.

        You description of the Iron Bird versus the mock-up is excellent. But your conclusion of the mock-up as not being representative enough could be premature. It is possible that the mock-up it is not finished in the inside. I don’t really know. I don’t know either how far they want to go with it. But one thing I know for sure is that they are extremely happy with it.

        Scott at the centre of the action:

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombardieraerospace/7404314388/in/photostream/lightbox/

  7. Uwe :
    In contrast to BBD Boeing never seemed to know much about their supplier internal situation beyond them being late or not.
    Having tech savy liaison at your suppliers is imho mandatory.

    I could not agree more Uwe. Few people have noticed the difference, assuming the Boeing methods to be superior. What is less known is the fact that if Boeing had used the Bombardier methodology there would never have been a Dreamliner fiasco.

  8. Poncho :
    Bombardier expects to have the first static test airframe ready by the end of September, followed by completion of the first flight test aircraft in December, with the major aircraft structures ready several months ahead of that. According to Bombardier, the CS100/CS300 still is on budget and the cash burn is within the previously defined limits.
    So Roll out might no be from September-on.
    Did I miss something ?

    The static aircraft is an empty shell and is therefore easier to build; because once the wing and empennage have been joined to the fuselage you’r basically done. The static can be started before the prototype and be finished some time before it.

    On the CSeries the fuselage is not stuffed like it has always been at Airbus on various models, and now at Boeing on the 787. So when the first prototype will have been assembled it will immediately be presented to the public in a roll-out ceremony; possibly at the end of September or beginning of October. And as soon as the aircraft will be back in the hangar they will finish it. That procedure will take a few more months.

    If everything works according to plan, Flight Test Vehicle No.1 will start its first taxi test in December. Apparently I am the only one outside of Bombardier to believe that.

    • Is there a good argument for not prestuffing sections ?

      I see the advantage in better access ( like being able to insert ceiling aircon stuff in one piece ) much less workforce interference _and_ the ability to pretest the sections at the interfaces. Downside : more connectors of all kinds.
      ( The 212/214 class U-Boats are actually built in the same prestuffed way )

  9. Howard :
    BBD expanded the number of Flight Test hours on this program from an original estimate of 1800, to around 2400. I’m not aware that they added any flight test aircraft to the program. Have they explained how they can manage this?

    The flight test campaign is planned to last 8 to 11 months. With the added hours it will likely take closer to 11 months. They have five aircraft to carry out those tests. Which is the industry standard. Each aircraft is assigned a test program and a specific mission. If they add hours to the program, they don’t add aircraft but they assign more hours to the flight test vehicle.

    But Bombardier is trying to save time now in case they have a delay somewhere. Therefore they try to make the flight test period shorter if possible, in order to protect EIS. So they are negotiating with the certification authorities to have some of the hours spent in CATIA sessions credited to the flight test program. CATIA runs all the systems 20 hours per day, seven days a week, and will log more hours than all the prototypes taken together.

    In other words they count on CATIA to save the show.

    Howard :
    If they were to roll out in September, they would have had to start final assembly at a minimum of last month. Of course by their original schedule it should have started LAST YEAR. Obviously that didn’t happen.

    “They would have had to start final assembly at a minimum of last month.”

    I believe they have.

    “By their original schedule it should have started LAST YEAR.”

    You are confusing the CSeries schedule with the A350’s. The A350 started before the CSeries and will finish later. If both programs are comparable in terms of technology, the scale is totally different. The A350 is in another league, and considerably more complex to manage.

  10. Normand Hamel :

    Poncho :
    Bombardier expects to have the first static test airframe ready by the end of September, followed by completion of the first flight test aircraft in December, with the major aircraft structures ready several months ahead of that. According to Bombardier, the CS100/CS300 still is on budget and the cash burn is within the previously defined limits.
    So Roll out might no be from September-on.
    Did I miss something ?

    The static aircraft is an empty shell and is therefore easier to build; because once the wing and empennage have been joined to the fuselage you’r basically done. The static can be started before the prototype and be finished some time before it.
    On the CSeries the fuselage is not stuffed like it has always been at Airbus on various models, and now at Boeing on the 787. So when the first prototype will have been assembled it will immediately be presented to the public in a roll-out ceremony; possibly at the end of September or beginning of October. And as soon as the aircraft will be back in the hangar they will finish it. That procedure will take a few more months.
    If everything works according to plan, Flight Test Vehicle No.1 will start its first taxi test in December. Apparently I am the only one outside of Bombardier to believe that.

    Thank you !

  11. Guru Josh :
    Six months before first flight I’d expect such a mock-up to be complete with all systems fitted.

    What you have in mind Josh is the Integrated System Test and Component Rig (ISTCR). The following links will show you recent pictures of it. ISTCR is part of the Complete Integrated Aircraft Systems Test Area, or CIASTA for short.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombardieraerospace/7414425300/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombardieraerospace/7414426826/in/photostream/

  12. Uwe :
    Is there a good argument for not prestuffing sections ?

    The main reason is that the fuselage is made in China, by COMAC. The ever prudent Bombardier wanted to mitigate the risks and gave a contract for metal assembly only. If you want to have an idea on how BBD is dealing with the Chinese you must check Addison Schonland’s podcast of his superb interview with Eric Martel from Bombardier:

    http://airinsight.com/?s=eric+martel&submit=Search

    The wing is built internally by the Belfast division (formerly Shorts). It is fully stuffed and ready to be joined to the Chinese fuselage. Please note that the Chinese build only the constant cross-section part of the fuselage; the Saint-Laurent facility takes care of the cockpit and rear fuselage, including the pressure bulkhead.

    • Fuselage, cockpit and tail sections reach the FAL as separate items?
      So one still could stuff sections in a preFAL step?
      ( One certainly must have designed for that in a first step )

      • I believe the fuselage is shipped by sea from China to Los Angeles, where it is then trucked to Montreal.

        What is less clear to me is whether the fuselage arrives at Saint-Laurent to be mated with the cockpit and aft fuselage, or if it is shipped directly to Mirabel where final assembly takes place. The Chinese fuselage probably arrives in Montreal in at least two or three sections.

        Because Saint-Laurent has robots for joining fuselage sections, I suspect that it is over there that the fuselage assembly is taking place. If that is the case we could then ask ourselves where is the stuffing taking place. I would say Mirabel, but I am not sure of that either.

        Mirabel also has robots similar to the ones in Saint-Laurent, but I don’t know what they do exactly in terms of fuselage assembly. I imagine that the tasks are shared between the two facilities.

        The wing from Belfast, and empennage from Alenia, are both sent directly to Mirabel for final assembly. I don’t know what is the mode of transportation, but I suspect it will be by air. Based on past practices at Bombardier, there is a good chance that the big Antonov will be involved.

        Saint-Laurent has a moving line for sub-assembly, and Mirabel will later on have a moving line for final assembly when volume will justify it.

  13. KDX125 :
    This mock-up does not look representative on the inside to me , so I am asking myself how a systems installation validation check could be done on it. This mock-up is incomplete and lacking fidelity.

    A new picture of the mock-up came out today. If you can download an HR version of the picture, and blow it up, you will see its remarkable fidelity. By the way this mock-up was not planned from the start. The idea developed as a group of CRJ line workers were trying to evaluate the potential problems they would have to face with a larger aircraft like the CSeries. So they decided to fabricate wooden aircraft parts, like landing gears for example, in order to carry out real-life simulations.

    Bombardier has all this fancy stuff in CATIA and other programs, but they recognized that some people have difficulty visualizing 3D as projected by even the most sophisticated software. They faced the same problems with the aircraft assembly sequence. Again they have the most sophisticated software to evaluate everything, but they found out issues on a Plexiglass scale model of the new FAL hangars that they had not been able to visualize in 3D. I personally believe that Boeing relied too much on 3D for the 787. But that is another story.

    So to get back to the CRJ workers, they decided to go beyond the aircraft parts and asked themselves if they could build an entire aircraft out of wood. The result is stunning. Just look at the details on the frame of the main deck Service Door. It is breathtaking. It looks like they only have to put the windows in and this thing could fly!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombardieraerospace/7447783198/lightbox/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombardieraerospace/7404253008/in/photostream/lightbox/

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