MIAMI — Rob Dewar, vice president and general manager of the CSeries program for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, sat down for an interview with Airways. In the latest edition of this special series, Dewar discussed topics including progress on flight testing, production delays, the China market, the aircraft’s competitors and its future.
Airways: How many aircraft are in the testing program for the CS100 and CS300, and what tests are currently being performed?
Rob Dewar: We have five CS100s in flight and ground testing. Aircraft one, two, three and four are active in the flight program, while number five is in the ground program. We just installed the first production interior on number five and are preparing for passenger evacuation tests that will take place later this year.
The first CS100 has been opening the flight envelope and we’ve been testing altitude and speed. We’ve completed the stall program and are verifying aerodynamic performance. We’ve finished testing it under severe icing conditions.
Number three is doing tests on system functionality. We’ve done some cold weather tests on number two inside a cell down in Florida. We set a record, going from -53 degrees Celsius to 54 degrees Celsius. I think we were able to do that because our aircraft was designed from scratch, so we can do more severe tests.
Aircraft number four is doing performance testing. It has competed brake tuning tests for runway performance, which was done in Wichita. It has its final performance engines and it’s being tested even as we speak.
Aircraft number two just completed its most critical test, the wing upending test, a week ago. It’s great news for the program and it’s great to have it behind us.
have systems tests and final certification tests. We have natural icing tests that will be done this winter. We’re also going to do cold weather testing and and finish the flutter tests.
We have two flight test vehicles for the CS300. With the first one, we’re doing functional test for two weeks then enter into the flight test program in early in 2015.
When is the first flight of the CS300 scheduled?
We’re being vague on that, but it’s planned for early next year.
What is the current timeline for each CSeries aircraft type as you move toward entry into service?
As we’ve said, that plan still tracking too. We’re scheduled to complete the CS100 certification program in the first half of 2015. We’re driving to complete testing in the last half of the year, and we’re holding to our schedule for that. In the last few months, we’ve made great progress on our structural program and have had momentum since the [May engine] incident. We built in some time in our production schedule at the beginning.
How much do you think delays on the CSeries program have affected orders?
Of course, delays are never helpful. I can say that we’ve built a lot of momentum and see interest picking up. We have 243 firm orders, with the latest coming from Macquarie [AirFinance in September]. We went to the ALTA [Latin America and Caribbean Air Transport Association] meeting recently and we see new opportunities. The CSeries is great for hot-and-high performance which is great for the Caribbean and South America. People see that the program is making solid progress. We’re releasing numbers, and customers are satisfied with the results.
When customers ask why they should consider the CSeries 100 or 300 when there are already competing products out there already flying, how do you respond?
The simple response is that we have the lowest operating costs in the industry, along with the best cabin. We have an all-new design so we can take into account any future design. Other [competing] aircraft were designed 20 to 40 years ago. The truth is that people have gotten bigger and taller, and the CSeries took that into account. It has wider seats and bigger windows.
The aircraft answers a lot of issues in the market. Its lower fuel burn and lower costs are unmatched with what is currently offered in the market. It’s 12,000 pounds lighter than its nearest competitor. It’s all about timing. People are seeing less risks with the aircraft, so there’s more interest in the market.
Aircraft manufacturers agree that there is growth potential for smaller narrowbody jets in China, with the Bombardier forecast predicting 7440 aircraft in the 100- to 149-seat segment between now and 2033. Why are there so few orders for the CSeries in this region if the need is there?
It’s all about timing. We had lot of interest at the recent [Air China] show, where we had discussions with potential customers and those are moving well. The CS100 is extremely well suited for the Western part of China. We took that into account when we designed the aircraft. We see China as a great opportunity in a new and growing market.
Bombardier had a management shake-up this summer. How do you think that has helped with CSeries production?
It’s given us a couple of advantages. One, a layer of management was removed from the organization, so I report directly to the president now. We can make faster decisions and have less reporting. We’re able to be more flexible and agile, and that was the key objective of the reorganization.
How do you think the CSeries program will look 10 years from now?
Personally, I believe it will have huge market success. Once the aircraft gets into market and proves its capability, airlines will rally to buy it. The market for smaller narrowbodies is 7,000 units in the next 20 years, and we can fill that market demand in this segment. It has been underserved dramatically, and existing products were either downsized or stretched. We have an aircraft that was specifically designed as an unbeatable solution for the market.