Commercial aviation is pushing into a new frontier. Some are calling this an industry super-cycle; the civil aerospace industry is developing (A320NEO, 737MAX and G2 Embraer E-Jet family), assembling (787-9), ramping-up (787-8), rolling out (A350 and CSeries), and rolling over (727s and 747s) an unprecedented number of aircraft types.

Preparing to Fly: Airbus A350, Friday 14 June

Airbus is preparing for the first flight of its A350, weather depending, this will take place on Friday, June 14. The aircraft has been undertaking high-speed taxi and rejected take-off tests in preparation for the maiden sortie. The interview with test pilot Andrew Chapman gives an insight into the initial test regime, and the aircraft’s predicted handling.

Weather remains a crucial element in allowing the first flight to take place; absolute weather minima is a cloud base of 1,500ft and 3km visibility. Thunderstorms and the threat of lightning will result in a delay or cancellation of the first flight, due to the limitations of the aircraft at such an early stage.

MSN1 will eventually be joined in the flight test campaign by four aircraft. Airbus expects to certify the A350 in mid-2014 after it has accumulated approximately 2,500 flying hours.

New to the cycle

Late last week, Bombardier’s CSeries 100 FTV-1 prototype rolled out of the production hanger. The prototype CS100 successfully completed 6 weeks of intensive software testing in mid-May, with confirms Bombardier’s Vice President Commercial Chet Fuller confirming the prototype is on track to fly as scheduled by the end of June, but not before the Paris Air Show.

The sleek CS100 is Bombardier’s foray into the 100-200 seat short-haul market. With Boeing and Airbus moving to larger capacity A320NEO/737MAX families, Bombardier moved to fill the void between those aircraft and regional jets in the marketplace; to serve marginal, as well as long and thin short-haul routes. Bombardier also recently revealed a redesign of the CS300 increasing the seat capacity from 135 to 160. The move made the CS300 distinctly competitive in the LCC market offering a higher total seat capacity than both the A319NEO and 737-7MAX, at a 20% lower maximum takeoff weight.

Five flight test vehicles will be involved in the CS100 certification campaign, each new aircraft entering at four to six week intervals: FTV-1 will test aerodynamics, aeroelasticity and flight dynamics; FTV-2 will be used to test avionics; and, FTV-5 will be the first CS100 fitted with a full passenger cabin.

The key to CSeries family is the Pratt & Whitney Pure Power PW1000G, with the CS100 the first civil aircraft to be powered by next generation ultra-high bypass geared turbofan engines (GTF). A significant change in engine architecture, the fan which produces the majority of thrust is driven by a reduction gearbox rather than being directly connected to the rest of the engine. This enables the fan to spin at a slower speed than the engine core, which rotates at a higher speed to optimise performance. The result is an engine that delivers a 16:1 compression ratio, and by adding a gearbox, P&W reduced the number of engine stages while achieving its fuel burn goal and a significant increase in propulsive efficiency. The diversity offered by the Pure Power series’ has enabled Bombardier to increase the size of its CS300 without negatively impacting operating performance; a subject that will be watched closely by airlines who have chosen the P&W engine to power their A320NEO orders.

Bombardier has 177 net orders for both the CS100, and larger CS300, with certification and EIS is expected in mid-2014.

Cycling out

Fedex Express, the last significant operator of the Boeing 727, will retire its final 727-200F from service on July 1. Fedex has operated the type continuously since 1978, when the airline received its first 727-100.

The airline brought forward the retirement of the 727 by several months, David J. Bronczek Fedex Express’ CEO explaining, “with the planned acquisition of new aircraft and projected slower economic growth than previously forecast, FedEx Express is lowering maintenance costs by aggressively parking and retiring aircraft”.

The retirement leaves Fedex with a streamlined fleet of Boeing 757-200SF converted freighters that have a greater payload-range, uplifting approximately 25% more revenue cargo than the 727, at a reduced operating cost.

At the peak of the operation in 1993, Fedex operated 167 727 aircraft. In 1993 the airline received it’s final 727-200F Advanced, taking delivery of the last 15 727-200F’s – the only 727 aircraft to built as pure-freighters – direct from Boeing.

Image: Richardsonpilot.