A new regional jet, the Bombardier CSeries, has had a prolonged launch stage, but the program is now making rapid progress toward reality. The 110- to 140-seat aircraft offers up to 20% lower operating costs compared to today’s smaller jet airliners and could become one of the biggest civil sellers in the next decade.
Final assembly will be at a new facility at Mirabel, Montreal, Canada, and an all-new wing manufacturing and assembly facility is under construction at the company’s Shorts airport at Belfast, Northern Ireland. The total value of the wing factory, when complete and fully equipped with new plant and machinery, will be in the region of $250 million to $300 million. To address the environmental impact of the factory, the structure is being optimized to ensure maximum energy efficiency, and a number of low energy solutions have been incorporated into the mechanical and electrical infrastructure design. There has also been particular focus on waste segregation and recycling.
The CSeries aircraft program builds on Bombardier Belfast’s track record of almost 40 years of experience in composites technologies. The current wing program involves testing and proving the design, manufacturing, and assembly processes relating to the resin transfer infusion (RTI) advanced composites process. The first test wing will be delivered in 2011.
The RTI process is different to the composite technologies used in most other aircraft programs, although the basic materials are very similar. Instead of using materials supplied pre-impregnated with resin, the RTI process involves laying down “dry” fabrics to create the structure, and the resin is injected into the structure after it is placed in the autoclave.
Benefits of this process during production are significant material savings and reduced cycle times. For the customer, the benefits of a composite wing include reduced inspection and maintenance activities, due to the corrosion-free properties of the materials, and significant weight reduction compared to a conventional metal wing. Such features will contribute to reduced fuel burn and associated environmental benefits.