Bombardier’s CSeries flight testing has now passed the 250 hour flight mark, with three Fight Test Vehicles (FTVs) in the program. FTV 4 is due to become airborne in May. This will be a milestone for the program because this is the airplane that will focus on the performance of the Pratt & Whitney P1000G Pure Power engine that is so integral to the development of Bombardier’s leap into the mainline jet business.
When BBD first proposed aircraft in the 110-130 seat sector, the C110 and C130, in 2004, this was “just another airplane:” little new in the way of airframe technology and using engines then in production. Withdrawn from the market after little interest, BBD revised the airplane into the CS100 and CS300, using an aluminum lithium fuselage and PW’s new Geared Turbo Fan engine.
The GTF promises around 15%-16% fuel consumption reduction and a dramatic decrease in noise footprints. While BBD has gained knowledge of how the GTF is performing from the first three FTVs, No. 4 will be the one that will prove whether all the engineering projections for the engines are correct and whether the engine/airframe combination will meet BBD’s promises of fuel efficiency.
Bombardier also hopes that meeting these representations will get a few customers that have been in the “show me” column to become believers. Disappointed with three program delays that have moved entry-into-service back to the second half of next year, potential customers need some solid results.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for BBD. The CSeries promises quieter operations at especially noise-sensitive airports, including Billy Bishop Airport in BBD’s own backyard in Toronto. Porter Airlines has a conditional order for up to 30 CS100s for use at this downtown airport, and the promised quiet operation is key to government approval to allow commercial jet operations there. This isn’t the only noise-sensitive airport.
Bombardier promotes its CSeries as being more economical than the competing Airbus A319neo and Boeing 737-7 MAX, and our analysis concurs. Sales figures also support BBD: the CS300 has far outsold the A319neo and 737-7.
For Pratt & Whitney, this is the beginning of the end of more than 25 years of research and development of the Geared Turbo Fan, a multi-billion dollar bet to return to the commercial airline engine market it once dominated but lost to rival CFM International when the latter won exclusive rights to power what is now referred to as the Boeing 737 Classic, rights that continue through the 737 MAX.
PW’s bet to return paid off. More than 5,000 GTFs have been sold on the CSeries, the Mitsubishi MRJ and Embraer E-Jet E2, on all of which it is the exclusive power plant; and it has evenly split the market on the A320neo family, on which it competes with CFM and its LEAP engine.
The industry keenly awaits flight test results from BBD’s FTV 4.