executives report that the first flight of its all-new 85 is “very close,” but the manufacturer does not plan to determine a certification and delivery schedule until the aircraft has flown for a few months.
While the company makes final preparations for the first flight, it continues to progress toward certification this year of the Challenger 350 and final designs for its top-of-the-line Global 7000 and 8000 programs.
The 85, which will be Bombardier’s largest Learjet yet, was quietly rolled out to employees in September. But first flight has been held up while the company completed systems integration and made sure the systems “responded the way they should,” Bombardier President and CEO Pierre Beaudoin told reporters in a conference call.
Problems with the composite program that have pushed back first flight by at least a year have been ironed out, Beaudoin says. “[It was] a little challenging to get all the composite programs done and produced,” he said, adding, “that’s all behind us now.”
Bombardier’s focus is now on moving forward with the flight-test program, and “that’s going to happen shortly.” Bombardier expects to apply for the flight-test permit soon.
The first flight-test vehicle, FTV1, is complete, Bombardier says, and “functional testing procedures are advancing as expected.” The airplane has completed auxiliary power unit and engine runs, along with low-speed taxiing tests. Other completed tests include key ground vibration and flight control ground testings. “Tests have shown results as expected,” the company reports.
Meanwhile, the company has begun production and assembly of additional flight-test vehicles, and is working to validate and certify the manufacturing process for its composite technology.
But when the aircraft will enter service has yet to be determined. Beaudoin says that similar to its approach in establishing a timeline for the, the company will fly the 85 “for a period” and then set the schedule.
The Learjet 85 was among six new business jet and/or aircraft upgrade programs that Bombardier had at least publicly ongoing at the same time. The Learjet 70 and 75, upgrades of the 40 XR and 45 XR respectively, won certification late last year, and the company says the new Challenger 350 remains on target for certification in 2014.
The 350, launched during the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in May with an order on hand from NetJets, is the follow-on to the Challenger 300, with upgraded avionics, new winglets and upgraded engines. The flight-test program is well along, with about 75% of anticipated flight tests completed by the end of 2013, Bombardier says.
Flight tests began with a modified Challenger 300, and the first Challenger 350 production aircraft joined the program on Dec. 27. Meanwhile, the company certified the new interior on a modified 300 in December.
As for the company’s Global 7000 and 8000 aircraft, Beaudoin says he feels “very good” about the programs’ progress. Those programs will benefit from some of the lessons learned on the CSeries programs, he says, adding the design teams have worked closely together on the fly-by-wire system.
The Global 7000 is expected to enter service in 2016, with the 8000 following in 2017. The programs of the long-range, large business jets are transitioning to the “detailed design phase,” Bombardier says.
Bombardier’s development team is working with suppliers at the company’s Aerospace Product Development Center in Montreal on the design definition. Meanwhile, production and assembly of the cockpit and rear fuselage for the first flight-test vehicle has begun, Bombardier says. Work is also underway to design and build ground test rigs for aircraft development and certification.
Supplier work is beginning, and the newPassport engine began full engine ground tests last year.