Mirabel is Bursting at the Seams, Part 3
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2:30am - September 12, 2017 - Quebec, Canada
In Part 1 of this survey we established that there were too many aircraft in the pipeline for the capacity of the secondary assembly line, the one we call FAL 2.
We had figured out that there were 14 aircraft in the pipeline, but only 9 bays to take them inside FAL 2. Since to my knowledge no aircraft were parked outside they had to be somewhere else. But where?
According to Sylvain Faust one was put inside one of the six bays inside Hangar X, which is the section normally occupied by the CRJ. The problem is that the C Series is too large to go through any of the six remaining doors at Hangar X. But apparently they found a way to pass one through. But it was a very delicate operation indeed.
But that still left four aircraft without a shelter. In my previous post I suggested that at least one might perhaps be stored in the paint shop. Yet, if this were so there would still be three aircraft without a home. However, in the meantime I came to realize that I had forgotten about a very important detail.
CRJ Final Assembly buildingPhoto: Normand Hamel, June 10, 2017
Across the tarmac from FAL 2 we find the CRJ Final Assembly building. That building is similar in concept to the C Series Final Assembly building (the Big White Building). But it is older and considerably smaller, and it does not benefit from the high technology that has been implemented in the newer building.
Like for the C Series Final Assembly, the CRJ Final Assembly has two lines where the CRJs are assembled. But today one of the two lines is no longer active because the production rate has been considerably reduced.
When I visited Mirabel last June I had taken some pictures of that CRJ Final Assembly building. The reason I took those pictures was because I had noticed a cut-out in one of the two hangar doors of that building. But I did not understand at the time why this modification had been performed.
It is only when one of our readers mentioned to me that one of the two lines was used to store surplus C Series that I understood what was going on. For it forced me to take another look at my pictures, and that's when everything fell into place.
The situation is this: At the end of the CRJ Final Assembly building there are two hangar doors of the same width, but one of them now has a cut-out above to make room for taller aircraft. And the door that has been modified is the one facing the assembly line that is no longer in use.
This modification allows the C Series to move freely in and out of the CRJ Final Assembly building.
That is where MSN 50018 has been hiding for almost nine months now. And the last two aircraft that came off the assembly line, 55024 and 55025, are also stored there because there is no room left for them in FAL 2.
Obviously Bombardier had a contingency plan in case FAL 2 would become saturated. Otherwise they would not have gone through the trouble of making those modifications, which were carried out at the same time the CRJ hangars were modified in 2011-2012.
CRJ StorePhoto: Normand Hamel, June 10, 2017
However, the saturation seems to have occurred much earlier than expected.
That's because they had problems with several suppliers, and as a consequence of this production at FAL 2 has been very slow. Which in turn impedes progress in FAL 1 and retards deliveries. For everything seems to revolve around FAL 2:
1- The production rate at FAL 1 is tuned to the production rate at FAL 2.
2- The certification rate in Preflight is also tuned to the production rate at FAL 2.
3- The delivery rate is in turn tuned to the certification rate in Preflight.
Clearly FAL 2 is where the bottleneck is.
The problem is that FAL 2 cannot finish the aircraft fast enough, and therefore the new aircraft that arrive from FAL 1 have no place to go, because FAL 2 is already full. And since the same building is shared by the Delivery Centre, Preflight and FAL 2, they are all scrambling for space.
To alleviate these problems, and bring some relief to FAL 2, Bombardier have outsourced the completion of some aircraft to Avianor, who are located on the other side of the Mirabel airport. Avianor acts in effect as an auxiliary FAL 2.
So in the future some of the aircraft coming out of FAL 1 will be sent directly to Avianor, instead of going to FAL 2, like was done with MSN 55016 last June. For the work carried out by Avianor is more or less the same as the work they accomplish at FAL 2. In fact it's like having a second FAL 2.
I don't know how this will pan out over the long term, but in the meantime Avianor are not where they are supposed to be at this stage. For after two months they are still struggling with 55016 and they remain behind the learning curve for the time being.
Therefore Avianor shouldn't make much of an impact in 2017. However in 2018 they might start helping Bombardier to bring C Series production to higher levels. But I doubt this exceptional measure will be enough.
For what Mirabel needs most right now is additional space and more efficient infrastructures.
Because even if they sorted out all their problems with their suppliers they would still be lacking the facilities required to sustain higher rates of production.
The first thing that needs to be done is to take FAL 2 out of Hangar Y in order to give the space back to Preflight. But they would need to build a proper Secondary Assembly building before they can do this.
At this point some of our readers are probably asking themselves what difference a new Secondary Assembly building (FAL 2) would make. Well, bear with me because the situation is complex. For this project encompasses a number of buildings, some already built, plus others that will be part of this expansion.
First of all this new facility will be located only two hundred feet across the tarmac from the existing Final Assembly building. This means no more long transits between FAL 1 and FAL 2.
Engine Integration HallPhoto: Normand Hamel, March 12, 2017
The Secondary Assembly building will also have a moving line, with four stations in a nose-to-tail configuration. And the last station will be at the same level as the existing Engine Integration Hall, where the engines are prepared before they are installed on the aircraft. When ready the engines will be sent from this building directly to the aircraft, already attached to their pylon, as one complete assembly.
Since the two buildings will be interconnected the engines will only have to travel a few feet to reach the aircraft on the moving line. Again, this means no more long transits between the existing engine facility, which was built in 2012, and FAL 2.
However, before the Secondary Assembly building is erected they will have to build a new store, which must be built first, because it will sit between the existing CRJ store and the new Secondary Assembly building.
But that's not all, for they also need to build a new paint shop, which will be contiguous with the existing paint shop. But it will be larger and the C Series winglets won't have to be removed like is the case right now because the hangar doors are too narrow. And the CS500 will also be able to fit inside the two new bays, which would not be possible with the existing facilities.
So as you can see there is a lot more to come. The question is when.
The problem is that Bombardier are still in a recovery mode and they probably don't have enough money for an undertaking of this magnitude. Therefore they may find themselves in some sort of Catch 22 situation.
For without money they cannot expand, and without the expansion they cannot improve the delivery rate, and higher delivery rates is what Bombardier need to get the cash to expand.
The delivery rate is what we will discuss next time.
If you hold any useful information about C Series production feel free to contact me, confidentially, at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
** Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of fliegerfaust.com or its other collaborators **
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