QUEBEC — During the 2017 Aero Perspectives conference at Bombardier’s CRJ and C Series manufacturing site, we were treated to a speech from a special guest; Swiss Airlines’ C Series Deputy Chief Pilot, Sven Thaler. Thaler became a captain on the C Series for Swiss in March, and also helped implement the aircraft into the fleet.
Thaler began explaining the C Series role with Swiss, an order that included 10 CS100s and 20 CS300s. He stated that the reason they took the CS100 was to give them the flexibility to operate into London City Airport (LCY) and other places Florence Firenze / Peretola (FLR) with short, narrow runways. He said the investment in the C Series had created about 150 new jobs, especially in the cabin crew department.
In terms of environmental impact, Thaler said the C Series fuel burn has been lower than expected, confirming what Bombardier had also mentioned that morning, along with saying it burns 18-28 percent less fuel than current in-production aircraft (which he did not name) depending on the mission. The longer the flight, the better the fuel economy. He also lauded the fifty percent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions, and the significant noise level decrease.
At LCY the CS100 is the longest jet operating, but also the most quiet. British Airways flies their Airbus A318 into LCY, but it’s only 109 feet long, in comparison to the CS100, which is 114 feet, 9 inches long. Thaler said that although the C Series can fly from LCY to New York, aside from the rumors, “That’s not our product. Our product with the C Series is short-haul routes.”
“The cockpit is a playground for us,” said Thaler “It’s a clean-sheet design, and you can tell when you sit for the first time that it was designed for pilots, by pilots.” He said the dual head-up displays help reduce the workload by giving a clear picture of where the information is. On the C Series, the pilot is allowed to overrule the computers, the checklist flow and use whatever is needed out of the aircraft. “The aircraft flies very intuitively, with direct control on the aircraft, and the response is exactly what you’d like to have.” Moving from the Avro with a yoke control to the CRJ with a sidestick came easily for Thaler, who said he felt at home after his first day in the simulator.
Service to LCY was launched with the Swiss CS100 on August 8th, with one daily flight. That has since been increased to two. Wet lease partner Helvitic Airways is also operating some flights, while Swiss pilots receive aerodrome familiarization training for LCY. After the sims, each pilot has to complete five live flights to LCY under supervision, which sounds a lot like qualifications for Naval pilots to land on an aircraft carrier.
Flying into LCY has a 5.5 degree angle of approach, while the approach angle at average airports is three degrees. “At London City, you have a level off at 3,000 feet for a very long time, which gives you time to configure the aircraft. Then, you enter the steep approach envelope. The spoilers come out, and you’re able to fly the 5.5 degrees without any issues. The programing of the steep approach software is at its best.” The spoilers automatically retract just before flare and touchdown on LCY’s 4,900 foot runway.
“You have to think about slowing down the aircraft,” said Thaler. “This of course reduces fuel burn, which is a feature which we want, and which we need.” Swiss plans up to eight flights a day into LCY from Zurich and two from Geneva.
When the C Series was put into service, Thaler said that their flight management system was displaying some “nuisance messages” as is typical with brand new aircraft, but the airline has been working closely with Bombardier to not only manage the messages but improve them.
Thaler said Swiss has about 200 pilots currently trained to fly the C Series. All C Series pilots can fly both variants, requiring only a 30-minute computer based class for familiarization between the two. To date, 18 C Series aircraft are in service (eleven with Swiss and seven with Air Baltic), with plans to deliver at least 19 more before year’s end. Swiss ordered the C Series to replace its fleet of Avro regional jets, which were removed from the fleet mid-August. Korean Air also will take its first C Series delivery in October, becoming the first operator in Asia.
Editorial disclosure: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft covered the author’s hotel accommodations for the conference, but all accounts and opinions of the event belong to the author.