Business jets, regional jets in the news

News from Bombardier, COMAC and Cessna.

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Bombardier Aerospace (Montréal, Québec, Canada) announced on Nov. 19 that the first composites-intensive wing shipment for its Learjet 85 business jet had arrived at the Wichita, Kan., assembly line. Crews already were involved in the process of readying the wings for attachment to the fuselage of the first Flight Test Vehicle (FTV1). Bombardier also reported that the fuselage for FTV2 had successfully completed its integrity inspection. Installation of the nose, bulkheads, floor, windshield and door surrounds were scheduled to begin in late November. When it is complete, the main fuselage will be shipped with the aft fuselage to the final assembly line. Wings for the complete FTV2 static test article were expected to arrive from Querétaro, Mexico, by the end of November as preparations for static ground testing continued.

“Seeing the wings arrive for our first Learjet 85 test aircraft is a wonderful moment … that could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of every single person involved in this project,” says Ralph Acs, Learjet VP and general manager. “This development program is gaining ever more momentum as we tirelessly work towards first flight and the first customer delivery.”
The Learjet 85 is designed to fly 3,000 nm/5,556 km at speeds of up to 470 kts (871 kmh). In practice, that means it can fly direct from Montréal to Caracas, Venezuela, or from Montréal to Los Angeles, Calif.

Bombardier announced on Nov. 7 in an investor call that its larger CSeries commercial aircraft program is making progress, with the build for both the Complete Airframe Static Test (CAST) and the first flight-test aircraft moving forward, says president and CEO Pierre Beaudoin. A number of key milestones had already been met, but Bombardier also had encountered supply-chain delays which resulted in a delay. First flight, therefore, was rescheduled for the end of June 2013. Entry into service of the CS100 aircraft is now expected to occur approximately one year after first flight. According to published sources, including Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (Nov. 19, 2012, by Jens Flottau and Bradley Perrett), the delay is due to issues at Bombardier’s Chinese partner Shenyang Aircraft, part of AVIC Aviation Technologies (Shenyang, China). Work is reportedly being pulled back from China to other Bombardier facilities, including the one in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

On another single-aisle jet program, GKN Aerospace (Isle of Wight, U.K.) and Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (SAMC, Shanghai, China) announced on Nov. 15 that they have revised their memorandum of understanding and signed further agreements that cover manufacturing, development and intellectual property rights for structures on Commercial Aircraft Co. of China Ltd.’s (COMAC) COMAC 919. The plane is a next-generation, twin-turbofan, narrow-body aircraft with 150 seats.

In collaboration with SAMC, a wholly owned subsidiary of COMAC, GKN Aerospace is to manufacture and assemble the composite horizontal tail plane (HTP) for the C919. The carbon-fiber composite HTP consists of two major torque-box assemblies joined together at a center rib and includes the elevator assemblies. Working with SAMC, GKN Aerospace will carry out the HTP development activities and, on completion of this phase, move into a manufacturing joint venture that will be called Shanghai GKN-SAMC Aerospace Composite Structure Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

Marcus Bryson, CEO of GKN Aerospace and Land Systems, says, “The ongoing success of this collaboration with SAMC represents both an important expansion of GKN’s long-established working relationship with China and a vital technological step forward in our work on the design and manufacture of advanced composite components and structures.” GKN employs 5,000 people and has 12 manufacturing locations in China.

In other U.S./China aviation news, Cessna Aircraft Co. (Wichita, Kan.) has entered into a joint venture with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd. (CAIGA, Zhuhai, China) to conduct final assembly of the Cessna Citation XLS+ business jet in China for the Chinese market. Cessna’s relationship with CAIGA is expected to help the former tap into what it predicts will be a decade of significant growth in the aviation market. At HPC press time, formation of the joint venture company was still subject to various government approvals and customary conditions.

Cessna’s Wichita, Kan., operations will provide components and parts manufacturing and subassemblies for the joint venture aircraft. The fairings and radome on the Citation XLS+ are composite components. CAIGA operations in Zhuhai will include final assembly, painting, testing, interior installation, customization, flight-testing and delivery of Citation XLS+ jets to in-country customers. This joint venture contract stems from the strategic framework agreement that Cessna entered into with CAIGA’s parent company, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), in March 2012.