Bjorn’s Corner: A good in-service start for CSeries

By Bjorn FehrmAugust 26, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Bombardier’s CSeries appears to have a good start in airline operations following its show-and-tell at the Farnborough Air Show in July. The first CS100 entered service with launch customer SWISS International Airlines shortly after the international event wrapped up. The aircraft has now been in service a month.

At the show I was on my way to a meeting with Rob Dewar, CSeries VP and Program manager to discuss the expected in service reliability of the CSeries, starting service with SWISS at the end of the week. I was a bit early and decided to use the time to pass the CS100 exhibition aircraft, the first series CS100 for SWISS. It was flown there by a SWISS crew earlier in the week.


Figure 1. C Series first serial aircraft flying in regular service for SWISS. Source: Bombardier.

The SWISS pilots were preparing for the trip home to Zurich as I entered the cockpit. We had time to talk about the aircraft and their expectations for the first revenue flight in two days, on Friday, the 15thof July.

High hopes

The pilots, whom both had flown the Avro RJ85 before, were enthusiastic about the CS100.

“It is a joy to fly; it’s a really good aircraft.” I asked in what sense it was good to fly. “It is the flight laws. They have really succeeded there; it is very stable and easy to fly. You know where you have the aircraft at all times.”

I then asked them about initial dispatch reliability. What was their gut feeling having operated the aircraft for training flights over the last month? “It will be fine,” came the surprise answer.That Dewar would have this response in my pending interview I expected, but line pilots are normally apprehensive. Brand new aircraft spell trouble.

“How can you be so sure?” I asked.

“We did three days with over 100 training touch-and-go landings last week,” the pilots said. “We had no problems. It has been like this since we got the aircraft, the odd small thing, but no real problems.”

Now the first month of airline operation has passed. Time for a first reality check.

Limited data

SWISS has released first impressions for their operation with the CSeries. It shall be stressed that we are looking at an extremely limited sample; one aircraft flying operationally for one month. The second aircraft started operation one week ago from SWISS Zurich base.

During this time, SWISS has not been forced to cancel any scheduled flights. The aircraft has been un-serviceable one day but that is nothing out of the ordinary. There was an issue with the air conditioning on one flight to the UK which forced a reroute; otherwise flights have been flown as scheduled, sometimes with smaller problems on the “to correct” list.

There are some things to correct in the way the cabin works as well, according to SWISS. Once again, nothing surprising. Modern cabins are complex.

Schedule reliability has been good. It has met SWISS expectations. Better than normal for new aircraft (seems the pilots were right). There is no point in presenting data for the month. Any schedule reliability statistics requires several aircraft in operation and over several months.

Rob Dewar said in the interview that he wanted the CSeries to beat the record for new aircraft schedule reliability, that of the Boeing 777. It was 98.5% at end of the first year of operation. Seems he’s off to a good start.

35 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: A good in-service start for CSeries

  1. Do they have any engine startup problems? Og cooling time like the a320neo?

    • No, the total starting time including a 15 second cooling spool (which was only necessary in very extreme cases but included as it doesn’t disturb normal operations) is 75 seconds which is normal for this type of engines.

      Part of the reason is that the engine is mounted differently than on the A320neo (fan case + turbine house mount instead of core mount for A320neo). The rotor bow, which all engines have, is then less of a problem.

      • Bjorn, do you know why the engine was mounted this way on the C Series? Was it to prevent this sort of thing from happening or were they just lucky? In other words did they have another reason, perhaps a constraint, that made them take the decision to mount the engine on the fan case? And should the other aircraft manufacturers, like Airbus and Embraer, have done the same, or did they have no other choice?

        • Hi,

          it is often the choice of the airframer (Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, etc) that decide the engine mounts’ position.

          Airbus usually has the engine mounts on the compressor casing and on the turbine rear frame. Boeing has them on the fan case and the turbine rear frame. Bombardier on the C-series same as Boeing. PW1000 on Embraer a/c also has them as Boeing.

          So down to airframer tradition and habit. My personal belief is that fan case + turbine rear frame is better.

          All airframers have the thrust lugs on the compressore casing, except once where I heard McD had the thrust lugs on a CF6 engine placed on he fan casing (DC-10?). Apparently a disater location for thurst lugs…

          • Thanks for this information mneja. I have noticed with Bombardier that when they designed the C Series they seem to have studied carefully the way Boeing and Airbus had designed their respective aircraft and have retained what they considered “best practices”. This is especially noticeable inside the C Series cockpit where any Boeing or Airbus pilot would feel at ease. They have even added their own original touches, like for instance the mounting of the radios on the front panel where the autopilot is located. This way the pilots can keep an eye on what is going on outside when communicating with the control tower. Nice aircraft and nice engine. The perfect combination, since one was designed around the other.

          • Is there an advantage to the one or the other design? Or is it just to be different from the competitor.

        • Rob Dewar and I talked in detail about it. The engine was mounted like that on the specific demand of BBD. Airbus has per tradition mounted engines by the core so therefore they demanded core mount.

  2. Swiss is doing better with a brand new plane at EIS than Jetstar is doing with its 787s .

  3. Bjorn, if this level of reliability pans out, do you have a sense of the key factor(s) (eg maturity required before selecting a given hw or sw technology, nature of supplier relationships, resource allocation to hw vs sw, project management skills) in achieving it?

    • Yes, this is all spelled out in the interview with Rob Dewar. In fact the interview was all about why he would expect the CSeries to perform well at EIS, what had BBD actually done to achieve this.

      • OK, thanks Bjorn. Couldn’t/can’t see it, being behind the paywall. Sounds interesting reading though.

  4. Lets see if the installed Components are more durable than the corresponding ones on the Q400 and CRJ’s. By the time of the first Aircraft C-check we will know.

  5. Good to hear. Such a beautiful aircraft. Hope it finds it’s place in global fleets. I believe it will.

    • I think it will do very well. Only problem is the center fuselag e section is being assembled by state run Shenyang Aircraft corporation. Although the coming Comac C919 will have European or American engines, it is the baby of the Chinese government and is in a similar pax class. The CS300 will be a superior plane but this conflict of interest still exists. A desperate dictatorship with control over the its competitors fuselage is not good.

      • Originally the entire constant cross-section part of the fuselage had been scheduled to be fabricated in China. But the centre fuselage section, which is more complex because of its interface with the wing, has been “temporarily” moved back in-house to Bombardier’s Belfast factory.

        • The whole Chinese production package was a cause of major delays to the program, as they werent to up doing the work to normal western standards and the even higher standards that Bombardier was expecting.
          Originally the development and production of forward, centre and rear fuselage was to be done by Shenyang plus the tail cone, empennage, wing body fairing and wing box was to be production only at SAC.
          The Spanish aerostructures company Aernnova was bought in to build 40 wing boxes and tail cones and fuselage assembly was bought to Montreal.
          Normand seems to know these things but I wasnt aware that NI built fuselage sections other than for the CRJ series.
          The Chinese government like all other countries has paid 100’s millions for subsidising the CS series development and industrialisation. Aviation week said that the C919 and CS series were to have a common cockpit design, but Im not sure that eventuated but should be obvious soon enough.

  6. LNC: “Modern cabins are complex.”

    And so are modern aircraft. The C Series has over ten million lines of code. This makes it the more remarkable that the C Series could achieve such a high reliability rate at this stage.

    But I am not surprised, because on its initial European tour, which lasted over a period of several weeks and took the aircraft to more than two dozen different European cities, the aircraft had already achieved 100% reliability. Of course this was easier to achieve than for an in-service aircraft because it was operated by the manufacturer. Yet it gave us an early indication that the aircraft was going to be exceptionally reliable.

    I have been following the two first aircraft daily since they have been in service with Swiss and had already noticed that there were few delays. And this data comes from flightradar, so it has nothing to do with company propaganda or anything of that nature. I do believe Swiss and BBD when they say that the aircraft is reliable. The beauty of this is that they both expected this kind of reliability. So no surprise there.

  7. We can say well done to BBD.

    Part of this may also be due to the original stopping of the program, getting a lot more time to figure out how to have it work right from the start.

    Its a well though out and beautifully executed design and particularly the wing got the high tech attention it needed.

    Early on I was a skeptic (first concept), but as I saw what they were doing, where it was positioned and how it looked (include the move to the GTF) I got more impressed steadily.

    I too hope it takes the industry by storm. It certainly has the credentials to do so.

    It makes the C919 look like an old Mak Truck and nimbly nips at the heels of the 737-800 and A320 (and the 500 will more than nip). Chew em up like a good bone.

    Many think the Chinese will get it, they never will if they go with old tech and they did.

    BBD did a great job of blending the needed new tech wing with older (latest materials) and equal fuselage with the best possible engine (not to mention the right hanging system for it!)

    • I agree but a Chinese mainland state run aircraft corp – Shenyang – are assembling the fuselage for CS. Maybe they could move production. I hope Shenyang will give fair treatment to the C series after their comac arrives. Comac are very late to the game and decades behind, well behind Bombardier and Embraer but they will copy and reverse engineer over time. Aerospace isnt easy of course. Even now, Mitsubishi is a long way behind despite their best reverse engineering efforts.

      • Could you site some information that Mitsubishi reverse engineered their aircraft and from what?

  8. @dukeofurl

    “The whole Chinese production package was a cause of major delays to the program, as they werent to up doing the work to normal western standards and the even higher standards that Bombardier was expecting.”

    – I have been told that the remaining fuselage sections have to be systematically reworked upon their arrival in Montréal.

    “Originally the development and production of forward, centre and rear fuselage was to be done by Shenyang plus the tail cone, empennage, wing body fairing and wing box was to be production only at SAC.”

    – China has never been considered for anything other than the constant cross-section, which was to include the centre fuselage and its associated centre wing box. Anything forward of that, or behind it, has always been built in St-Laurent, including the cockpit, pressure dome, rear fuselage and tail cone. As for the empennage it has been built by Alenia in Italy since day one. It is the same manufacturer as for the 787 horizontal stabilizer; except that for the C Series it includes the vertical stabilizer as well. The entire package behind the constant cross-section,
    starting with the pressure dome and including the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, is made out of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP).

    • Aviation Week Jul 6 2012
      “When Bombardier established the manufacturing system for its new 110- to 149-seat jet family, it allocated development and production of three fuselage sections—forward, center and rear—plus the empennage to SAC. It also charged the Chinese supplier with building the tail cone and wing-body fairing and center wing box.”
      Aviation Week Nov 14 2012
      “Shenyang Aircraft and SACC build about half of the structure of the Q400 turboprop, having progressively taken over more of the airframe manufacturing. Bombardier expects the Chinese partner to do the same with the CSeries, for which Shenyang Aircraft is already contracted for the forward, center and rear fuselage sections, plus the tail, tail cone, wing-body fairing and the center wing box.”
      Those were back in 2012 and later reports had more work shifted to other locations ‘temporarily’

      “Bombardier’s U.K. unit is handling some tasks originally assigned to Shenyang Aircraft in the CSeries development program, with a view to eventually returning the work to the Avic Group unit, Bombardier says. Problems that arose at Shenyang raised program risks, resulting in the decision earlier this year to shift the work temporarily, says Andy Solem, VP for North Asian sales of Bombardier” Aviation week Nov 2012

      “BBD identified issues in the supply chain, without specifying where or who. It’s been public that there are challenges with China’s Shenyang facility, which is building fuselage sections for the airplane. BBD began assembling the sections at its Belfast plant as a back-up.” LNC Nov 2012

      Everyone back them was talking about ‘fuselage sections’ in China and ‘temporary reallocation’ to other places. maybe the temporary words was to save face for China as there doesnt seem to be any talk of moving back.
      Interestingly the formed Al-Li fuselage skins come from Ducommun, one of the longest established aircraft suppliers, in California (they claim to be californias oldest established company)

      • “It’s been public that there are challenges with China’s Shenyang facility, which is building fuselage sections for the airplane”

        So its already happened. Shenyang are already way ahead of me. There will always be problems eith elthem I suspect. You have to marvel and wonder what could convince them it was a good idea to let them produce critical aircraft parts. And of course, miraculously, these problems will dissolve for the “Comac” and it will be plain sailing for them. And then we will nevee hear the end of the 5,000 years of aviation innovation from these pirates.

      • Right now, the assumption on the ground is that all fuselage will be built in Belfast.

        [I think executives believe there may be a transfer around the 400 mark, but they’re deluded.]

        • This may explain why the Chinese are not buying the C Series in great numbers, as I had naively expected at the start of the programme.

          • Well when you consider it would compete with the 919 and the ARJ21 that’s a given.

            Can’t have the state industry given even more of a black eye.

  9. AW: “When Bombardier established the manufacturing system for its new 110- to 149-seat jet family, it allocated development and production of three fuselage sections—forward, center and rear—plus the empennage to SAC. It also charged the Chinese supplier with building the tail cone and wing-body fairing and center wing box.”

    I am surprised that Aviation Week would say that the empennage was allocated to SAC. To my knowledge this has never been the case. Perhaps it had been considered early on but I have never heard of it, and I have been following the C Series very closely for 18 years (since 1998). I will concede though that they were allocated the tail cone. But this is just a relatively small cap that closes off the aft fuselage.

    There seems to be a bit of confusion around the fuselage. The main fuselage is made of three sections: forward, centre and rear. But that only concerns the straight sections. Behind those sections we find the aft fuselage, which is connected to the rear section of the main fuselage. They are separated by the pressure dome. The aft fuselage is tapered while the main sections have a constant cross-section. In other words their diameter remains the same through their entire length. Forward of the main fuselage we find the cockpit, which is also tapered.

    The aft fuselage, the pressure dome and the cockpit have always been made in St-Laurent. The aft fuselage and pressure dome are made out of CFRP but the cockpit is made out of Al-Li, like the main fuselage. The aft fuselage is an especially complex section compared to the main sections. It is not only tapered but also holds in place the empennage with its vertical and horizontal stabilizers. But these are manufactured separately in Italy by Alenia. And like the aft fuselage they are made out of CFRP.

    To summarize, we have the main fuselage which comes in three sections (rear, centre and forward) to which is connected the aft fuselage in the back and the cockpit in the front. The aft fuselage holds the empennage in place. The latter comprises the vertical and horizontal stabilizers.

  10. having looked through Bomabrdiers press releases for the Cseries, I located this back at Farnborough Jul 15 2008.
    “Bombardier and Shenyang Aircraft Corporation Sign Contract Related to CSeries Commercial Aircraft”

    Today, we are here signing the contract in which AVIC I / SAC will take part in the design, manufacture, assembly and relevant testing as well as after market support of four major work packages for the CSeries aircraft…..
    “This is good news for everyone involved. Our Bombardier CSeries aircraft is a true game changer and, with the signing of this contract with SAC, we now have a major supplier for the aircraft’s center fuselage,” said Guy C. Hachey, President and Chief Operating Officer, Bombardier Aerospace”

    So it seems that AV was wrong to say SAC were doing more than the centre fuselage section. Its not specified what the other work packages were.
    What AV may have been confused over was this
    “In July 2006, Bombardier entered an agreement that stipulated SAC would manufacture certain structural aircraft components for the Q400 aircraft that were previously sourced from Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) in Japan”
    These were fuselage sections.

    A few days before the SAC press release the CSeries was formally launched at Farnborough 2008
    “Mirabel selected as final assembly site, Bombardier’s Belfast facility for the development and manufacture of the wings; manufacture of aft fuselage and cockpit to take place at Bombardier’s Saint-Laurent site”

    It seems that possible movement of more fuselage sections to China will occur at a later stage.

    • If they’re smart, they’ll have a rock solid back up plan to make the center fusrlage in Belfast too, in case theses deperate regimes have a “change of heart”. I would also expect Shenyang to violate privacy and steal trade secrets for their masters at every turn.

  11. ”– I have been told that the remaining fuselage sections have to be systematically reworked upon their arrival in Montréal.”.

    it was at least 1000 Non Conformity Report per fuselage barrel, at an average cost of 500$/NCR They mooved everything to belfast and spain Quickly, i dont know where is the cooperation with the chineese, since at least one year no fuselage section came from china, but i wish them if the orders from china stay 0 to stop this cooperation/technology stealing

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