One aerospace executive says the final assembly of the first unit of a new aircraft should start at least one year ahead of first flight. The CSeries has not yet reached that milestone. Power on for the first flying aircraft in any particular program should be reached three to four months ahead of first flight, he adds. The CSeries would therefore have to be at that milestone by September at the latest.
Chinese engineers encountered problems with CSeries manufacturing, but perhaps no more than the usual difficulty expected in a new program, says one industry official in China.
SAC, which is mainly a combat aircraft builder, has given some of its CSeries work to its civil offshoot, SACC, which receives detail parts from SAC and builds the major assemblies for export to Canada. Reviewing the SACC business, President Pang Zhan spoke this year of such challenges as meeting customers’ ever higher demands for quality, and said his answer was to specialize. The company could not bring together the resources to properly build all parts of an aircraft, he said, so in developing its business SACC now concentrates on tail sections, doors and engine mountings, a much narrower range of work than it is conducting on the CSeries.
A representative of SAC referred Aviation Week to Bombardier.
One source with knowledge of the situation says it is “shocking that Bombardier has watched [problems unfold in China] and done nothing about it for so long.”
The contracts with Shenyang were announced in 2008 at Farnborough, two days after the formal launch of the CSeries program. In August 2009, Shenyang delivered a 23-ft. test fuselage barrel to Bombardier’s St. Laurent plant in Montreal. In March 2010, SAC started construction of the facility for building the fuselage sections. Less than two years ago, Bombardier is understood to have contacted suppliers, such as Aernnova, about stepping in temporarily to build some components. Aernnova delivered the first center wing box to Bombardier in January this year.
One aerospace executive says the cause of the problem lies in Bombardier’s supply chain management. SAC was unable to handle the manufacturer’s design tools, which are challenging when using Western data systems even without a language barrier, he says.
Another source hints at the difficulty of gaining the approval of Western authorities for large subassemblies developed and produced by China. Gaining approval is easier if the initial batch of aircraft is produced at home–Montreal in this case—and production is transferred to foreign suppliers at a later stage. “China has great difficulty in introducing the right procedures and documentation,” the executive says. Potential rework would be “very time-consuming.”
Xi’an Aircraft builds A320-family outer wing boxes to what Airbus calls a high standard, but did not begin doing so until Airbus had been building them for more than 10 years; at first, Xi’an did not make the complete assemblies. Similarly, SAC supplies wing parts for the A320 and A330 families.