Bombardier plans to begin full fly-by-wire (FBW) flights of the CSeries in March.

Since its first flight in September, the all-new narrowbody airliner has been flying in back-up “direct” FBW mode.

The CSeries is Bombardier’s first fly-by-wire aircraft, and the company is moving cautiously. The full “normal” FBW control law, which includes envelope protection, is part of the Block 3 software build.

Ground and flight testing started with software Build 0. The first two flight-test aircraft, FTV1 and FTV2, are now flying in Build 2 standard, Rob Dewar, vice president and general manager for CSeries, tells Aviation Week.

Build 3 has been in ground testing for a month now in Bombardier’s CSeries engineering simulator at Mirabel, near Montreal. The software update will be loaded on to the test aircraft in March, he says.

Bombardier is trying to accelerate the pace of CSeries flight testing, which has been slow to start. Only around 100 hours have been logged since FTV1 flew in Sep. 16 and FTV2 on Jan. 3.

Because of the delays, entry into service of the 110-seat CS100 has been pushed back by at least 12 months to the second half of 2015, followed six months later by the 130-seat CS300.

The company plans to fly each aircraft 30 hr./month in February, 35 hr./month in March and 40 hr./month in April. “We need that level of hours to meet the certification schedule,” says Dewar.

FTV1 started flying with 5,000-ft. ceiling, 5-nm. visibility, runway condition and crosswind limits, and flight testing was relocated to Wichita, Ks., on Jan. 16 for better weather – then a winter storm hit Wichita.

Still in Wichita and assigned to envelope expansion, handling qualities and engine tests, FTV1 will start stall testing in the next few weeks, says Dewar, who adds that engine relight tests have gone well.

FTV3, the avionics aircraft, was handed over to flight-test operations earlier this month and began auxiliary power-unit runs on Feb. 12 and engines run today. First flight will be within the next two weeks, says Dewar, and FTV3 will join FTV1 in Wichita after initial flights from Mirabel.

FTV4, the fourth of five flight-test aircraft in the certification program for the CS100 variant, has already been powered up and is expected to fly six weeks after FTV3. The fuselage and wing of FTV5, which will be the first to get an interior, have been joined.

Aircraft FTV1, 2 and 3 have the first iteration of Pratt & Whitney’s PW1500G geared turbofan, which is missing its specific fuel consumption and weight specifications by 1%, says Dewar.

FTV4 has the second iteration of the engine, which is on specification for fuel burn and weight, he says. Because it is the performance-test aircraft, FTV4 has a production paint scheme.

In addition to the five test CS100s, two FTVs for the 130-seat CS300 are in final assembly, as is the first production CS100, aircraft P1. Assembly of aircraft P2 will begin mid-year in a new factory at Mirabel.

The CSeries program “is on our earned value curve for entry into service in the second half of 2015,” says Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin, adding “I feel very comfortable about the schedule.”

Bombardier says development of the CSeries will now cost $4.4 billion. The original figure was $3.4 billion, but was calculated under different accounting rules and so not directly comparable, he says.

The company now has 201 firm orders for the CSeries against a target of 300 at entry into service. There are “opportunities ahead,” Beaudoin says. “The battle is finding [delivery] positions for new customers.”