Making Commercial Jets: Harder Than They Thought?
A number of companies developing new jets for the commercial 100 - 200 seat market are pushing out first flights. Did they underestimate the difficulty?
The last few months have been tough on the challengers to the Big 2 in the regional jet market. First there was Bombardier pushing back the schedule for the CSeries program for its first test flight. Then Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac) announced a delay of the C919 first flight to 2015. Finally, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (MITAC) announced the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) pushed its first flight to 2015 as well.
MRJ. The Wall Street Journal, subscription (8/22, Ostrower) reports that the delay in the MRJ is the third of the program, and “could increase concern over the launch of the fuel-efficient plane.” Aerospace Manufacturing and Design (8/29) reports that the first flight is now scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2015, with first delivery in 2nd quarter of 2017. The company’s own press release stated “Design and respective certification…have taken greater resources than anticipated which, in turn, impacted component deliveries and aircraft fabrication. In step with program partners, MITAC has established this new schedule to take into account the fulfillment of respective safety certification standards.”
Air Transport World (8/22, Moores) reports that “Over recent months, Mitsubishi has rolled out a series of organizational changes, including the appointment of a new chairman/CEO and president/COO. It has also reorganized into seven divisions, with senior managers heading up each unit. …This latest setback marks a major shift from the original MRJ schedule, with outlined plans for the first flight in the second quarter 2012 and first delivery during the first quarter of 2014.”
Aviation International News (8/22, Polek) reports that this delay represents a hit to the credibility of the company, after company officials made assurances that the first flight would occur in 2013. “The latest delay marks the third major disruption to the program schedule since Mitsubishi launched the program in 2007.” The second disruption to schedule occurred over the company’s failure to document engineering and production processes, according to AIN.
CSeries. The Montreal Gazette (8/19, Marowitz) reported that even though the CSeries is likely to take its first flight, “industry analysts believe the plane won’t begin commercial service until early 2015.” This is based largely on the fact that Bombardier has delayed the initial flight three times. The article also noted that new orders are not flowing in as expected. “While Boeing, Airbus and Embraer have announced large orders for their narrowbody aircraft, Bombardier has struck out on new orders and failed to win any commitments from EasyJet and Vueling Airlines, where it was viewed to have had a chance.” Air Canada is reported to be considering the CSeries to replace 38 A319s. The Financial Post (8/26, Marowits) “Brazil’s Embraer is positioned to extend its leadership in regional jet sales over Canada’s Bombardier in the coming years, according to transportation analyst Derek Spronck of RBC Capital Markets”
COMAC C919. Bloomberg News (8/6, Wang) reports Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (Comac) has delayed the first flight of its C919 passenger plane to 2015 because of “certain procedures” that were unnamed officials said were not tied to any technical issue. In its rush to meet schedules, Bloomberg reported that COMAC had asked project designers to work 12-hour days and Saturdays. This news broke a day after Flightglobal (8/5, Toh) reported that certain crucial parts called conveyance tubes were delivered for the program.