A year ago, Bombardier’s Global 7000 program hadn’t yet entered flight testing. Today, the fourth flight-test vehicle (FTV 4), which first flew on Sept. 28, is making its NBAA debut at the Henderson Static Display. It’s named The Architect because it has most of a production interior fitted to the four-zone cabin. Together, the four flight-test aircraft have flown nearly 900 hours. A fifth and fully production-conforming flight-test aircraft is in final assembly, and it will soon join the flight-test campaign. Bombardier is on track to fly another 700 to 800 hours before the $72.8 million aircraft enters service in second half 2018.

“This is history in the making. We couldn’t be more proud of where the program is at,” said David Coleal, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft. “Look at it. It’s the largest purpose-built business jet, 111.2 ft. long from nose to tail, and it has a wingspan of 104 ft. It sits well above all others.” Coleal notes that the wing has a very flexible structure, providing one of the smoothest rides of any business aircraft. Flexible wing design has been a hallmark of Global aircraft since the original Global Express made its debut in 1998.

Eight Global 7000 customer aircraft are progressing along the final assembly line in Toronto, and interior production is ramping up in Montreal. Production is sold out through 2021.

Bombardier expects the aircraft to have a range of 7,400 nm at Mach 0.85 cruise, and a top speed of Mach 0.925. It’s been dive tested to Mach 0.995, making it the largest business jet ever to achieve this milestone. It has fly-by-wire flight controls and semi-active sidesticks adapted from its CSeries jetliners. It’s one of the first purpose-built business jets to have an active load alleviation function built into the flight controls to help damp out bumps and reduce stress on outboard wing sections.

“Everything we said this plane was going to do, it will do,” said Michel Ouellette, senior vice president of the Global 7000/8000 program. “Nothing’s been compromised.”

The company has experienced a resurgence in interest from Global 7000 potential buyers, says Brad Nolen, Bombardier Business Aircraft director of marketing and business development.

“The market has realized it’s performing well,” Nolen said.

Confidence in the program is replacing early skepticism from investors and analysts who were concerned about program delays, Coleal noted. The aircraft was originally expected to enter service in 2016. But Bombardier paused development to redesign the wing to ensure that the aircraft would make its performance numbers. Coleal noted, for instance, that the aircraft has successfully flown steep approach trials, paving the way for approval to operate from London City and Lugano airports.

The interiors of FTV 4 were validated on the ground in a Bombardier test rig that replicates flight conditions related to airframe motions and flight loads. The testing uses a production fuselage mounted on a pneumatic bed and allows for validation of the interior’s fit and finish and cycle time in advance of installation on the aircraft.

The ability to pre-fit the interior before installation a way to “iron out any bugs” and avoid production slow-downs, Ouellette said.

Bombardier is now using the tool for the interiors installation process of its production aircraft. The interiors are built at Bombardier’s Center of Excellence in Montreal.

The fifth flight-test vehicle, named The Masterpiece, will have a lighter empty weight because of structural improvements and a full production interior. It will be used for function and reliability testing and long-term maturity testing.

At the same time, the company is working with authorities in certification protocols, said Ouellette. A Transport Canada representative recently flew along on FTV 1.

Inside its final assembly line in Toronto, the company plans to have 12 Global 7000s on the line before the end of this year.

“How fast we push them through is all based on demand,” said Graham Kelly, Bombardier vice president of global operations at the site. Eventually, the Global 8000 will come down the same line.

Inside Building 10, the Global 7000 will move through five stations during final assembly. The wing halves are received from Triumph in Dallas and joined to the fuselage with the help of two robots, nicknamed Drillbert and Drillbee, who perform the drilling  Eventually, two more robots will join them, and riveting will be introduced as well.