MIAMI — Bombardier has delayed the entry-into-service of its CSeries CS100 jet until the second half of 2015. The company adds that the CS300 will enter service six months later as the airplane’s test program continues to plod along. It cited delays in the flight-test program as the primary driver behind the decision.
Until now, Bombardier had stopped publicly announcing entry into service dates since the program missed a planned first flight window in July of last year. The airplane later went on to complete its maiden flight in mid-September, but has spent much of its time on the ground since.
Progress has picked up, however. A second test airplane, known as FTV2, joined the flying test fleet two weeks ago on January 3rd. The company reports that between FTV2 and the original test aircraft, FTV1, the program has logged twenty flights, many of which were in the last four to six weeks. It is believed that the third airplane, FTV3, will be set to joint the test fleet in the coming days.
Program officials add that the airplane has spent more than 250 hours in air and ground testing. That the company still touts both air and ground remains troubling, however. The airplane needs a total of 2,400 flight hours, eventually to be split by five test airplanes, in order to receive the nod from government aviation regulators. At present the airplane is not even close to hitting that mark.
In a bid to increase the test fleets available flight windows FTV1 took off this afternoon for Bombardier’s Wichita, Kansas flight center,reports program watcher Slyvain Faust. The airplane had previously been headquartered in the company’s Montreal, Quebec base where poor weather had been a frequent factor in keeping the airplane on the ground.
In a press release, President of Bombardier’s commercial division, Mike Arcamone, said that the company is “taking the required time to ensure a flawless entry-into-service.” He further reported that, despite the slow pace, “no major design changes have been identified.” Bombardier has been quite tight-lipped on the program.
Good news, however, trickled in from new Saudi Arabian start-up Saudi Gulf Airlines. The carrier ordered sixteen CS300 model jets with options for up to ten more. The new carrier expects to begin service in early 2015, using Airbus or Boeing airplanes until its CS300s are delivered.
The order places the current program total for firm orders up to 198. Bombardier is hoping to hit 300 firm by the time the airplane enters service. With the entry into service now pushed back, the manufacturer will have more time to attempt to reach the mark. The last firm order came from Iraqi Airways, at the Dubai Airshow, in November, 2013, though it was not firmed up until December.
Many potential customers have been wary of the jet, particularly as the inflight test program has failed to progress as quickly as many had hoped. Others have gone farther, placing commitments but not going so far as to lock in the order. The airplane presently has 247 such commitments.
The airplane also continues to face a struggle in nearby Toronto, Canada where Porter, who ordered twelve airplanes plus eighteen options, is waging a bid to open Toronto’s downtown Billy Bishop Airport to jet traffic. The issue has divided city officials and residents, with a decision largely resting on whether or not the CSeries can meet noise requirements.
Once the airplane enters service it will compete against both regional and full-service jets. The CS100, with a smaller seating capacity is aiming to compete with larger Embraer regional jets models. The CS300, with an upper limit capacity of around 160, will compete with the deeply entrenched Airbus A319/20 and Boeing 737-7 and -8 airplanes.