Bombardier CS100 launch customer impressed as network route-proving concludes

Chris Kjelgaard looks at the completion of last week's route proving exercise by Bombardier for its new CS100 aircraft.

Swiss International Air Lines is in highly confident mood regarding its forthcoming reception of the first customer Bombardier CS100 after it and Bombardier Aerospace concluded an intensive route-proving exercise with a production-standard, airline-outfitted CS100, flying many of the European routes on which the carrier intends to operate its new airliner type.

At a March 23 media event in Zurich, the manufacturer and the airline – which likes to style its name as ‘SWISS’ – confirmed to reporters for the first time that Swiss International Air Lines will take delivery of the first customer CS100 in June. Until now, Bombardier had only confirmed that the delivery milestone would occur in the second quarter.

In pinning down the delivery date to a particular month, SWISS and Bombardier shared details of the newly concluded CS100 route-proving exercise they had carried out on many of the routes from Zurich Airport – the carrier’s main hub – on which SWISS will operate the 30 Bombardier CS100s and CS300s it has ordered…

All the route-proving flights were conducted using the airline’s typical operational procedures: although no passengers were carried on the flights, the CS100’s cabin was outfitted with a full complement of passenger seats.

Over a three-week period, the CS100 completed more than 30 city-pair flights between Zurich and European cities on the SWISS network. Brussels, Budapest, Milan, Paris, Manchester, Vienna, and Warsaw were among the SWISS network cities to which the CS100 flew from Zurich.

“Considering that Bombardier inserted the CS100 aircraft into a number of the network operations we currently service, the route-proving programme provided us with a real indication of how the C Series will operate in our route system when we take delivery of our first CS100 aircraft in June,” said Peter Wojahn, chief technical officer for SWISS.

Wojahn was effusive in his praise for the CS100: “As the launch customer and the first airline to operate the C Series aircraft, we are very pleased and impressed with the results,” all the more so because all the round-trip flights originated at its Zurich hub.

Some of the major performance characteristics validated for the CS100 during the European route-proving programme were its airfield performance, landings, airport turnarounds and on-ground operations in airline operation, according to Bombardier Aerospace.

“The results are aligned with previous observations and confirm that the C Series aircraft is meeting or exceeding original targets,” the manufacturer stated on March 23.

According to aviation consulting firm AirInsight, which had a representative attending the March 23 media event in Zurich, the CS100 actually visited 46 airports in Europe during the exercise and achieved 100 per cent dispatch reliability for every flight throughout the three weeks.

Bombardier and SWISS were able to turn achieve turnarounds within 20 minutes with the CS100, according to AirInsight. However, the consulting firm noted that the aircraft flew a maximum of four sectors a day, whereas in commercial service SWISS will schedule its C Series aircraft to operate up to eight sectors a day.

As a result, Peter Koch, C Series fleet manager and programme head for SWISS, told AirInsight he expects the CS100 to achieve an initial operating reliability rate of 99 per cent in commercial service. This is still much higher than is normal for new commercial-aircraft types upon initial entry into service.

Like approximately half of all Airbus A320neo-family aircraft for which engines have been selected to date, all Bombardier C Series jets will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1000G-family geared turbofan engines.

In late 2015, the performance of the PW1100G engines on early customer Airbus A320neos generated high-profile, negative media attention because each engine required more than six minutes’ of cooling time after shutdown and a similar amount of idling time upon initial start, as a result of engine hardware and software issues.

This issue prolonged A320neo turnaround times and caused Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, to cancel Qatar’s plans to be the first operator of the A320neo. It made Al-Baker chastise the manufacturers (as he often does when buying new aircraft) and threaten to cancel its entire 36-aircraft A320neo order, or at least its selection of P&W engines for the aircraft.

In the event, Qatar Airways delayed delivery of its first A320neo for about eight months, until June 2016. Subsequently, Pratt & Whitney – which initially was partly to blame for the furore by refusing to acknowledge publicly the PW1100G’s engine-cooling issue and discuss it with the media –indicated the problem is already nearly fixed and will be fixed entirely by the time Qatar Airways receives its first A320neo.

For a variety of reasons, the PW1500G engines powering every C Series jet do not have the cooling issues experienced by early PW1100Gs. This was demonstrated during the SWISS route-proving programme for the CS100 by the aircraft’s engines achieving cool-down times of less than two minutes, according to AirInsight. This time is normal for in-service commercial jets.

One important task Bombardier still has to achieve for the CS100 is to certificate the type to operate the steep, 5.5-degree descent-angle approach required for landings at London City Airport (IATA code LCY).

Not only does SWISS intend to operate its CS100s between Zurich and LCY, but planned UK start-up carrier Odyssey Airlines placed a firm order for 10 CS100s. Odyssey intends to base itself at LCY and operate its CS100s from there on routes to destinations as far afield as the Canary Islands and the Middle East, to make use of the CS100’s excellent take-off performance and payload-range characteristics.

Bombardier aims to complete LCY approach certification for the CS100 in the third quarter of this year and SWISS intends to begin operating CS100s to the constrained airport in the first quarter of 2017, according to AirInsight.

The Montréal-based manufacturer’s European route-proving programme for the CS100 followed a similar exercise it conducted last year throughout North America with an airline-configured CS100. That exercise included flights to and from more than 35 North American cities.

TAGS: Airframes
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