Where is Bombardier in its preparations to support the CSeries?
It’s been a long road to get where we are from a services perspective; we have been working on the CSeries programme since its initial days. We have been fully integrated with the product development work packages and we’ve been able to provide the “in-service voice”.
Our teams have been focusing on the design of the aircraft from a maintainability point of view, but at the same time we’ve been focusing on all of our deliverables that we have to prepare and have ready when the aircraft is available to go into service. Today we’re 85 per cent complete on our manuals and the associated documentation needed to support aircraft. So we are in very good shape from that perspective.
What about your maintenance programme?
We have MRM Part 1 already approved by Transport Canada and we’re working on MRM Part 2 currently. That’s a function of where we are in the development of the programme and we will be submitting a Part 2 application to the authorities later this year to gain approval. From a maintenance point of view the programme is developed.
We have the best in class maintenance intervals for the aircraft so our initial A-check is 850 hours and the C-check interval is at 8,500 hours, so these are substantial intervals relative to current aircraft that are flying today.
How are you ramping up for entry into service (EIS)?
From a pure EIS point of view, we are starting to build up our teams. We have a robust plan where we will dispatch an EIS team with the aircraft, this team will consist of an onsite manager, technicians, pilots and Bombardier specialists. The team will all accompany the aircraft and be resident with it. In the case of SWISS, the CSeries' launch customer, we will have a team that is accompanying the aircraft to Zurich and will be with the aircraft as we enter service.
How long will the EIS team stay?
The different team members phase in and out depending on their specialist, but we will normally be there a month prior to the aircraft’s arrival and anywhere from three months to six months in duration after that.
For example, we will have a maintenance planner that will go and educate the SWISS team on the maintenance programme and work with them to make sure their programme is optimised for their operations. That person will only be there for a month. Meanwhile, our field service representatives (FSRs) are dedicated to the airlines, so they will not leave.
We are also working very closely with our suppliers and have commitments from key providers to supply resident personnel with our EIS team. These representatives will be there until the systems are performing at the level expected.
What else have you been working on?
From a pure logistics point of view we are working for our plan to have all of our parts stocking for the CSeries out of Frankfurt. With the first operators all in Europe, we have made a conscience decision to position stock where the aircraft are going to be. We're also working with our suppliers to make sure that they position stock in Europe for the same reason.
From a maintenance perspective, because of our best-in-class maintenance intervals our initial focus is making sure that we have maintenance capability in a region – not necessary heavy maintenance capability, because we know our customers won't need heavy maintenance for quite a while.
So we are focusing on how we do that, when we do, what we do. And we will be making some announcements in the near future about one of the first steps towards making sure we have what I call “maintenance capacity capability in region”.
How are you providing maintenance training?
We have an agreement in place with Lufthansa Technik Training (LTT) and it is performing all of the maintenance training and technical courses for us. The training programme for the maintenance is already completed and we have conducted with LTT the first class sessions for internal staff. That was completed in advance of getting the programme certified by the authorities.
Has anything changed with Bombardier's approach to the aftermarket for the CSeries in comparison to the CRJ or Q400?
The big change has been how we have advanced our IT support – our “e-services”. We are developing two big systems to support the CSeries. The first is an eFIM – electronic fault isolation manual. In the past you would have a printed manual for this, so a technician would have to flick through pages and pages to identify a fault. Now it’s all electronic, with an intuitive user interface, and can be run on a desktop, laptop or tablet. It gives the maintenance crew or engineering teams the ability to troubleshoot instantaneously; on the aircraft; at the aircraft; or in the maintenance centre.
The EFIM is a knowledge-based tool that provides potential solutions to issues based on previous inputs. As an operator uses this technology, they will create a case or session. They will input what the snag is, and the system will then give them the highly probable component or system to check. When the issue is resolved they will put the outcome into the system when closing that session, so the knowledge base keeps building the most probable solutions.
Currently, we are working to build up cases in the system so when the aircraft enters service, we will already have a wealth of knowledge inputted into the system. Then our operators will be able to use to help them manage the aircraft in the event of a troubleshooting exercise.
We have this electronic reporting system on the CRJ and the Q series aircraft, but the big difference is that we don’t have the FIM integrated into it. This means that technicians have to go back to the FIM and take all of the documented cases to close off the case. Everything on the CSeries will be done through the eFIM
And the second system you are developing?
We have a brand new customer portal that we will roll out shortly before the EIS of the CSeries. That customer portal will introduce new features and functionality that don't exist today on the existing platforms and one of the big advancements is a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that will allow our customer response centre to have a complete, integrated case-management system. This will be used to log, track and manage every customer request that comes in and goes out of our customer call centre.
Then on top of that, we are developing our aircraft health management system (HMS) and that will be integrated with the CRM tool. It will also provide a new service offering that we'll provide to our customers and that will be the management of big data.
What will this big-data support offering entail?
From day one the CSeries was built to be an all-electric aircraft and the onboard HMU (health monitoring unit) will manage 5,000 system parameters. Those 5,000 parameters can be downloaded automatically at the gate or be downloaded during flight by maintenance teams if needed. During flight this data download is done through the ACARS system, which is expensive so if you don’t have any kind of systems snag during the flight then you wouldn't do anything.
When the aircraft gets close to the gates the HMS will be able to automatically download all the system parameters directly to our data warehouse. We will then provide a service to airlines to manage that data. If an airline is well established from an IT perspective they can download, convert and manage the data themselves. But we recognise not every airline has that IT infrastructure in place and we’re making a considerable investment so they don’t have to.
How are you preparing to deal with these huge amounts of data?
We are building what we call an “aircraft ground support system” and that will manage all this thick data being generated by aircraft. Then the intention is, as part of our aftermarket service offering, to provide diagnostics and troubleshooting support, as well as packaged reporting against fleet performance and trending data. We will also be able to provide prepackaged touchline reports to airlines as a service. Some airlines will be interested in this service and others won’t, but this is a significant advancement in IT infrastructure that will enable us to make big data available to our customers. It’s very exciting.