Odds and Ends: Retrofit interior for 737, A320; CRJ200F; CSeries FTV assembly starts

Retrofit Interior for 737: Heath Tecna, an interiors firm, is offering a Boeing-like Sky Interior design for retrofit with a target market of more than 3,000 Boeing 737NGs. APEX magazine’s Mary Kirby (formerly of Flight Global) has this story. The photos show the Heath Tecna design is remarkably similar to the Boeing Sky Interior. The difference, Kirby quotes a company official, is this: “The biggest difference between the two interiors can be found in the bag capacity offered. With Project Amber, we can increase the amount of bags that can be stowed on a typical Boeing 737-800NG by 40%. And we’re able to do that because our patent pending design offers a little larger pivot bin in a unique configuration.”

When Boeing announced the Sky Interior in April 2009, we asked if a retrofit would be offered for the 737 fleet and the answer was that while technically it could be, there were no plans to do so. When we saw the same official at an event in August, we posed the question again and the answer was the same.

Heath Techna, a subsidiary of Zodiac, is an interior supplier. It’s also offering a modern, retro-interior for the Airbus A320.

CRJ200F: Cargo conversion company AEI Inc. is exploring a passenger-to-freight cargo conversion for the Bombardier CRJ200F. From the press release:

The CRJ200 LCD aircraft would provide operators with a freighter capable of hauling a maximum payload of 6.7 tonnes. The freighter would come equipped with an Ancra cargo loading system capable of hauling pallets, containers or bulk loaded material. The Main Deck Cargo Door will be 94” (2.39 m) wide by 77” (1.96 m) high and feature AEI’s proven hydraulic actuation and latching systems which has been installed on more than 370 freighters.
Additional features include:

  • Up to 6.7 tonne payload
  • Total Cabin Volume of 1864 cu ft (52.8 cu m)
  • 10,000 lb (4 536 kg) payload can be flown 1,735 nm
  • 15,000 lb (6 804 kg) payload can be flown 800 nm
  • Dual vent door system
  • Rigid 9G barrier
  • Main deck converted to Class “E” Cargo Compartment
  • Cabin windows replace with lightweight aluminum window plugs

CSeries Assembly: CSeries Flight Test Vehicle 1 (FTV 1) assembly has begun. The Wall Street Journal has this story about the compressed schedule. Reuters has this story. Bombardier hopes to meet its plan of first flight by the end of this year, but has been telegraphing a three-six month slip. A customer we talked with thinks first flight will be in April. Bombardier’s 3Q earnings call in November 4; we expect a schedule update then. Aviation Week has these pictures.

15 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Retrofit interior for 737, A320; CRJ200F; CSeries FTV assembly starts

  1. So, according to Reuters: “We’re aiming for first flight this year,” said Marc Duchesne, a spokesman for Bombardier. “The market is expecting us to start flying as soon as that.” But surely that market expectation has been driven by the OEM’s repeated statements of intent? Of coure, if this proves a wee-e-e bit optimistic, one can always blame the “market” for being too ambitious…
    If Bombardier actually began final assembly on October 1, it has given itself 92 days to achieve first flight. What is the shortest time in which anyone has assembled and flown a prototype new-design jetliner – do I hear 100 days? 120 days anyone? 150 days [ie late February, 2013 for C Series] from the man in the corner with the French accent who wants to see the beast at the ‘Salon’ next June…

    • It is really a question at what stage of component completion FAL starts
      and how complex the object of desire is.

    • More like 180 days provided systems – once installed – work right first time.

  2. It makes a lot of sense to me that the CRJ200 would be converted to haul cargo because the CRJ200 is based on the Challenger aircraft, which was originally designed as a small cargo airplane, as well as a business jet. That’s why it was so large (106″ fuselage).

    Right at the beginning of the Challenger program, Fred Smith made a commitment to purchase 25 Challenger to replace FedEx’s fleet of Falcon Jets. That was in the days when the CAB’s regulations would restrict FedEx to carry no more than 7,500 lbs of cargo. Canadair also made a promise to Smith to develop a stretched version later on.

    The Challenger was therefore made a little bit stronger (heavier), and bigger, than necessary to meet the FedEx requirements. That was a time (mid seventies) when regional jets did not exist yet. But the important FedEx order made Canadair (Bombardier) build-in the potential to develop a regional jet based on the Challenger.

    One could say it was a conscious decision because the engineers saw right away the potential for a four-abreast transport. But the development of a regional jet was not their main preoccupation at the time. They just wanted to satisfy FedEx.

    The irony is that FedEx never took delivery of the airplanes because the CAB restriction was lifted, which allowed them to buy larger aircraft like the Boeing 727.

  3. Suggesting the CSeries might still fly this year is non-sense of course 😀

    Unless you really believe they can stuff in all the different systems, and fully test everything in about 2.5 months.


  4. The APEX 737NG article has a photo showing a triple PSU, but the cabin view looks like the entire PSU will be above the window seat. Will the center- and aisle-seat passengers be able to reach their air outlets and light switches? Also, what about airplanes that now have video monitors that fold down from above the center seat. Where will these monitors go?

    • How many recent interiors have mechanical light switches? And many do not have any pax-controlled air outlets, either.

      • single-aisle airplanes use overhead reading light and attendant call switches; twin aisle airplanes with their much greater headroom must operate them remotely in amrest-mounted passenger control units . Adding PCU’s to a single-aisle airplane’s triple seat would make the armrest wider, the seat narrower and complicate the airplane’s seat-to-seat wiring. Similarly for the air outlets [called gaspers, maybe because that’s what passengers will do if they’re not installed]. Hand operated on single aisles, sometimes remotely-operated on twin-aisle wide bodies

        As for overhead video, replacing fold-down monitors by interactive seatback IFE is hugely expensive, not just for the video equipment but also for seat redesign and IFE controls. It can also add a lot of weight.

        Raise the bridge or lower the river? Each airline would have to make their own choice when installing these new bins.

  5. Rob Dewar, the CSeries Program Manager, has given a thirteen minute interview to Addison Schonland on Air Insight. The following is a summary of that conversation.

    Bombardier now acknowledges that they are behind where they want to be. Although the wing for the static aircraft has already been delivered and has been mated to the fuselage, the wing for the first test aircraft (FTV1) will arrive only later this fall. The FTV1 fuselage assembly is now completed though.

    But I haven’t heard anything about the composite empennage, which is manufactured by Alenia in Italy in the same facility where the 787 horizontal stab is manufactured. When taken together, the vertical and horizontal stabilizers are almost as important as the wing.

    Apparently everything is going well on CIASTA, the integrated test rig. The first wave of testing is actually completed. They are currently updating the software before undertaking the second wave of testing. They have accumulated over 500 hours of virtual flight testing. They have run uninterrupted for two months, seven days a week, twenty hours a day. They have had less than a dozen snags overall. Which bods well for the actual test flights.

    They have assembled two fuselages so far, CAST and FTV1, and they did not need to use shims at any of the fuselage joints. Considering that the parts come from Ireland, China and Canada, this is quite remarkable.

    On the other hand, they have less success with the Parker Fly By Wire system. They are behind schedule there for sure. And as we have learned in “The Mythical Man-Month”, adding more people to the program will not necessarily take less time. Quite the contrary in fact. Although this should have no impact on the Roll-Out date, it could potentially hold back the first flight; more than the actual completion of the aircraft assembly I believe.

    It’s too bad because on the manufacturing side things are going quite well. Yes they are behind two or three months, but it’s not dramatic. They are actually ahead of the learning curve; thanks to the wooden mockup, which has generated over 1,600 improvements so far.

    Bombardier is expecting the assembly of FTV1 to be completed before the end of the year. So at best we can expect the Roll-Out ceremony to take place before Christmas. But for the first flight we might have to wait until Easter. That is if everything goes well. A lot of prayers will be needed to achieve without further delays those two important milestones.

    I suppose we could say that the targeted date for the maiden flight rests on a wing, and a prayer. 🙂


  6. I think the CSeries has already proven a game changer before assembly of the first aircraft started. Airbus engineers needed about 3 minutes to estimate the fuel burn advantages against their A319 and see the growth potential of the CS300. And knew the airlines would need double that time, but the writing was on the wall and a NEO became inevitable. It took Boeing a little longer but they had to follow.

    When they get the CS100 certified and the CS300 matured the airlines will start pushing for a CS500, a 150 seater two class with less range and superior economics. IMO this will lead to a split in future NB types, smaller ones (<150 seat) optimized for shorter flights) and larger ones (up to 240 seats) for longer flights. The one shoe fits all strategies of the last decades will be gone..

  7. The CSeries does offer outstanding seat economics, but market success of the CSeries has been stymied by other factors in what Bombardier is able to offer airlines. A big one is that Bombardier is financially handcuffed when competing against Airbus or Boeing and frequently cannot work the ownership cost of their offering in a way that is competitive. A CS500 will help by further improving CASM, but it will do nothing to address Bombardier’s inability to discount their airplanes or offer creative help with financing.

  8. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group explains the relatively low sales figures of the CSeries by the fact that Bombardier thinks that their product is so good that they don’t need to be commercially aggressive. I disagree.

    For one, I believe that BBD is conscious that they could be more commercially aggressive, but don’t want to and don’t need to. They don’t want to be aggressive because that led them on the verge of bankruptcy in 2002. When the CRJ program was going full swing BBD was making only a small profit on each airplane they sold. That’s actually one of the reasons why they sold so many in the first place. They have sold approximately 1800 so far, I believe.

    But after 9/11 the recession that followed hit them really hard and they found themselves with very little cash on hand. They actually had to sell the profitable recreational product division (Ski-Doo & Sea-Doo) in order to survive. That’s the company that was created by Joseph-Armand Bombardier. And because it remains a family own business the same people are still in charge; and they remember vividly the lessons learned back then. And what they have learned is that there is no use to sell all kinds of airplanes if you can’t make a decent profit on those sales.

    And they don’t need to be aggressive because they are just starting. They need to ramp up production first. They also need to do this in an orderly fashion. BBD launched the CSeries in July 2008 at about the same time Boeing was starting to have problems with the Dreamliner. Boeing sold many 787 early on; too many in my view. They are loosing money on that program and their production problems are not completely resolved either. Those are the problems that BBD is trying to avoid.

    They have commitments for up to 352 airplanes. We don’t know if all of these will be exercised, but we can expect the interest to increase dramatically when the airplane starts flying. Right now they have to work really hard to make a sale because Bombardier is not an established player with the same status that Boing and Airbus currently enjoy.

    So the potential buyers remain cautious. But once the aircraft will have proven itself it has the potential to become quickly very popular. BBD will then have less difficulty finding buyers at the price they are asking. Because it’s a family business they are not after the quick buck. They are there for the long run. They want to take their time and do this right. They have secured enough sales so far to comfortably and confidently start production.

    Although flattering for Bombardier, it’s a mistake to compare them with Boeing and Airbus. They are not in the same league. But they have a good product. Good enough to upset the balance of the current duopoly. The CSeries has the potential to make a serious dent in the current offering. It forced Airbus to accelerate the introduction of the neo. Which in turn forced Boeing to abandon the idea of a NSA and improvise the MAX.

    In a sense we could say that last year’s frenzy in the narrow body market was fired up by the CSeries proposition. At least in part. A & B understood the threat early on. That’s because they knew enough about this market to immediately recognize that BBD was offering a product they could not offer themselves.

    That reality must be very annoying for the two giants. But they still have a few years ahead to rethink their strategy.

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