There is still a place for airframe mock-ups

In today’s computer world and fancy 3D programs, it turns out there is still a place for airframe mock-ups to cross-check computer programming and to actually be sure the human can reach the nooks and crannies in an airplane.

Bombardier and Airbus are using mock-ups for the CSeries and A350. AirInsight has this report.

Bombardier’s iron bird this week began virtual flights. This is a key process to test the systems before the first airplane rolls out and it is a key way BBD hopes to avoid delaying EIS. Most people believe the first flight will be 3-6 months late (we concur) and BBD itself has been telegraphing the prospect of a 3-5 month delay, though so far it is sticking to its official schedule that first flight will be in late December.

  • Separately, Boeing activated the 787 surge line in Everett. This is key to achieving a production rate of 10 per month by the end of next year. It also serves as mitigation of the risk of Charleston.

21 Comments on “There is still a place for airframe mock-ups

  1. Physical mockups are still useful, but not very crucial. Most maintenance-accessibility questions can be answered reliably through digital fly-throughs or equivalent. Mockups are still useful as a sales tool, but may not be worth the investment for anything else.

    • Airbus and Bombardier ( and probably Embraer too ) seem to strongly dissent.
      ( not as a replacement/substitute for digital simulation but as a final check )

      The map is not the territory.
      Requirements in contracts are not automatically reality.

    • One of the main purposes of the CSeries mock-up is to prepare for final assembly. But since it is an accurate and detailed mock-up, maintenance/accessibility issues can also be addressed. It can be viewed as a physical simulation tool that complements a virtual simulation one.

  2. BBD seems to have an interesting concept with its “iron bird” systems intergrator. It will bring to light some unforseen systems problems, like software, which seems common to todays new airplanes.

    The Boeing surge line has been well talked about, and it will help Boeing get to 10 B-787s per month. If the main B-787 FAL in Everett can get to 4 per month, Sc to 3 per month, and the surge line to 3 per month in the next 15-16 months, they will make it.

  3. Simulation and mockups are everything.
    When I visited the CELIAS DPU people for the first time to test my CTOF interface board
    the first act was connecting our respective simulations of each others hardware and
    see if those interacted flawlessly ๐Ÿ˜‰

    “It also serves as mitigation of the risk of Charleston.”
    What risk is associated with Charleston that is not present on the other lines?

  4. “Bombardier and Airbus are using mock-ups for the CSeries and A350.”
    An essential ingredient for a successful Program. At the time of the A340 development in the early 90s, Airbus had built a wooden mock up of the wing, with fully working slats and flaps. It is still located in Filton… minus the working bits ๐Ÿ™‚
    This type of testing is as essential, as Wind tunnel work during the design phase, in my opinion.

    • Virgin tried to develop a Formula 1 car using a virtual wind tunnel only. They could not keep up the pace with the other teams that were using conventional wind tunnels and they quickly abandoned the idea.

      • I was secretly laughing at them at the time. Trumpeting the amazing advances in fluid dynamics simulation that rendered wind-tunnels obsolete…

        All simulation is based on things we already know plus a large dose of assumption and simplification. Too many people in this industry forget that!

        And aerodynamics is the *last* place you can expect to simulate everything 100%.

  5. The CSeries is now “flying” 20 hours per day, seven days a week. The fuel burn sets a new standard for this industry: 0 gal/hr! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • OV, your video also is very cool. It shows the similarities between what Airbus and Bombardier do to give maturity to the various systems before first flight. But I think there are a few differences. I am not sure exactly what those differences are though. But here is what I think differentiates the two. I invite anyone to correct me if I am wrong.

      Airbus integrates the Engineering Simulator along with the Iron Bird into Aircraft Zero, and they do that with a single simulator.

      Bombardier uses two simulators. Both are connected to the Iron Bird (ISTCR). The simulator we see in the video is a very basic one, with no visual system. But it can “fly” Aircraft Zero 24 hours per day, seven days a week

      And there is the engineering simulator (ESIM) which is housed in a separate building adjacent to the Iron Bird. It is an airline type simulator with a visual system, but without motion. My guess is that it will also drive the other rigs like the Cabin Systems for example. It is not operational right now but will be shortly.

      Here is a list of the systems comprised in CIASTA:

      – Integrated Systems Test and Certification (ISTCR).
      – Engineering Simulator (ESIM).
      – Systems Integration Test Stand (SITS).
      – Flight Controls Integration Lab (FCIL).
      – Environmental Cabin Systems (ECS) rig.

  6. 3-6 months? You’re fooling yourself. Ask yourself this, what’s the fastest time a single aisle airplane of this size has ever done Final Assembly? Now ask yourself can BBD do it in 3 months, as they claim when that is less than half the time of the current industry fastest? LOL. Now consider they don’t even have all the bits and bobs needed to put together said airplane. Not to mention that they need to build the static test frame first, and test that for at least a month or two to be able to get permission to fly. Yea… they’re just 3-6 months late… in a pigs eye.

    • I believe they are assembling FTV1 before the Static. The latter will be completed first anyway because it is just an empty shell. FTV1 would normally take four months to complete but BBD wants to do it in three. All the main parts have now arrived in Mirabel and final assembly is underway.

      • Still can’t fly with out static test data confirming analysis.

        Please provide some links indicating that they have parts on dock and that they have, in fact, started assembly of the first airframe (of whichever variety). Hand waiving is cheap.

        • The information that “they have parts on dock” comes from Rob Dewar who is Vice President & General Manager (VPGM) of the CSeries. His comments are available here in this thread in the video I supplied (#10).

          Every year at the end of July all the Bombardier production employees take their vacations at the same time and production stops. They planned to have them start the CSeries final assembly in August when they returned from vacation.

          I understand your scepticism Howard. If Bombardier succeeds it will be truly miraculous. But I remain confident that they can pull this off. They have a lot of experience manufacturing all kinds of beautiful machines like airplanes, trains and recreational vehicles.

          When Bombardier acquired Canadair in 1986 the Bombardier Manufacturing System was already recognized in university circles as one on the most efficient in the world. What they have learned in one manufacturing division they have transferred to other divisions. Today they borrow their cutting edge know-how from the automobile industry. Guy Hachey at BA and Michele Arcamone at BCA were hired precisely for their expertise in that field.

          Unfortunately BBD likes to keep a low profile, to the point of being secretive. I believe it’s cultural. Meanwhile I wish we had more solid evidence, more often, that they are making progress. Like in the video above and with pictures like the one that follows and which already dates back to last Spring!

  7. Electronic imagery has clearly defined a role within the overall mock-up process but is more often media lead.

    It’s quite astonishing to see a clients response to a well designed physical mock-up, specifically one thats been highly tuned to their own corporate identity. Dependant on lead time given the attention to detail truly has to be seen to be believed.

    To be able to sit on that seat, feeling & seeing the space surrounded by your own corporate identity has considerable impact, far more than any glossy imagery & after the number crunching it;s something decision makers remember & reflect on. Yes orders probably quite wrongly have resulted….

    The irony is that a physical representation often presents a more cost effective solution for both internal & external mock-ups, delightfully it seems our senses still have a role to play these days.

  8. Normand great pitures, specially the big wooden mock up ๐Ÿ™‚ At an airline we did the same for cabin configurations, also to test crew service etc.. Very usefull.

    R&D people told me that when there is a radical aircraft concept, quickly making a NC milled/ wooden model & putting it in the tunnel with forks and sensors is still far cheaper, faster and insightfull then creating a CFD model. It takes so much expensive manhours and verification, substantiation to make a credible CFD model.

  9. SomeoneInToulouse :
    All simulation is based on things we already know plus a large dose of assumption and simplification. Too many people in this industry forget that!

    That is exactly what I had in mind when I started following the Dreamliner drama shortly after the Sonic Cruiser comedy. I had the impression at the time that a new generation of engineers was now in charge, and which had collectively accumulated little wisdom. Everything they were saying seemed to be based on computer simulations, instead of being based on real-life past experience. It soon turned out into a tragedy.

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    He acts being seven ages.

    W. Shakespeare

  10. I agree many of the 1300 A320 NEO orders are basicly slots that will likely be converted to A321s in the coming years. E.g QF, intra Asia / China, leisure and transcon carriers.

    In my view the recent reengine bonanza was really initiated by an imaginairy aircraft that isn’t even launched, the CS500. It took Airbus and Boeing engineers / marketeers just hours to see this aircraft shine through after Bombardiers released basic specs of the platform. Weights, wings and range all are dimensioned for it. (the CS100 is very heavy..)

    It won’t have the range, cargo capasity and 200 seat growth potential, but it can do 140-150 seats two class or 170 single class up to 2000NM at superior operating costs. And that’s were more then 90% of global Narrowbody operations happen to be.

    Bombardier doesn’t have the muscles Airbus and Boeing have, but the Chinese C919 is aimed larger and the ARJ21 potential is limited. If Chinese AVIC and financers say ” lets go” they proved they can move mountains and the market could look different in the next 20 yrs..

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