Making Room for the C Series
In a series of articles published on Fliegerfaust in recent months we have discussed the C Series production issues associated with the lack of proper space to complete the C Series when they come off the assembly line. This situation is about to change dramatically
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4:00am - 09:00 UTC - November 21, 2017 - Quebec, Canada
In a series of articles published on Fliegerfaust in recent months we have discussed the C Series production issues associated with the lack of proper space to complete the C Series when they come off the assembly line. This situation is about to change dramatically.
Rumour has it that CRJ production in Mirabel is preparing to move out and go back to Bombardier's Dorval facility where the CRJ100/200 were assembled at the beginning of the programme.
It is only when the CRJ700/900 were launched that production was moved to Mirabel in 2000 in a brand new facility especially built for that purpose. But it now appears that they are going back to their original location.
This makes a lot of sense. For the CRJ's best years are now behind it and production is at an all-time low. And in Mirabel the CRJ happens to be in the way of the C Series which badly needs more space.
What they are planning to do is to temporarily accelerate production of the CRJ in order to build up inventory for the transition period when they will move production from Mirabel to Dorval, a slightly older facility that is located on the Montréal island.
Once the CRJ will be gone this will leave two additional assembly lines for the C Series, plus six more bays to service the aircraft. Presently the CRJ occupies two separate buildings.
One of these buildings is the final assembly line, which I will call the CRJ FAL, and the other is what I referred to in previous articles as the CRJ hangars and which is presently used as completion centres, preflight hangars and delivery centres, for both the CRJ and C Series.
Let's start with the CRJ hangars. Before the C Series there were 19 bays in the CRJ hangars, all of the same size. This facility was built in the heyday period when the CRJ was very popular and demand was high. This lasted for several years and so far they have sold more than 1,900 aircraft of that type.
But demand has slowed down considerably in recent years and Bombardier took the opportunity in 2011 to modify 13 of those bays to accommodate the larger and heavier C Series.
Today there are only 6 bays left for the CRJ, plus 9 larger bays for the C Series, out of the original 19, for a total of 15 bays. And when the CRJ will be gone we can assume that the remaining 6 small bays will be modified and converted to 4 larger C Series bays, for a total of 13 (9+4).
In the future all those bays will likely be used strictly as preflight hangars and customer aircraft delivery stations.
In the meantime they also use a number of them to complete the C Series aircraft when they comme off the assembly line, just like they always did for the CRJ. This improvised C Series completion centre is what I call FAL 2.
It is important to understand that the final assembly of an aircraft can be done in two phases. For exemple the 737 final assembly is done at Renton in Seattle. There when the airplane comes off the assembly line it is structurally complete but needs to be painted and fitted with customized interiors. That is why the 737 is sent to another location in the Seattle area, called Boeing Field, to be completed before it is delivered to the customer.
The work that is carried out at Renton is what I call FAL 1 for the C Series in Mirabel, and the work done at Boeing Field is what I call FAL 2. For both are final assembly activities, but one looks after the assembly of the airframe while the other deals mainly with the assembly of the airplane's interior. Except that in Mirabel the engines and APU are installed at this final stage as well.
The Global 7000 set-up is even more similar to what Boeing has put in place for the 737. The Global is assembled in Toronto and is flown to Montréal as a green aircraft for completion. So in this case Toronto acts like Renton and Montréal like Boeing Fields. Some 737s are even sent directly to China for completion instead of going to Boeing Field.
In Mirabel the situation is slightly different. There when the aircraft comes off the assembly line it is sent to the modified CRJ hangars which are used as a completion centre (FAL 2) for both the CRJ and C Series, while some of the other bays in that facility are used as preflight hangars and for aircraft deliveries.
All that activity is taking place inside the same building in nine separate bays for the C Series, plus another six bays that can only be used by the CRJ because they have not been modified to accommodate the C Series.
But when FAL 1 will have reached its maximum output FAL 2 won't be able to keep up the pace and that is why they are planning to take FAL 2 out of the modified CRJ hangars. But to go where?
The original plan was to build a dedicated completion centre (FAL 2) right in front of the brand new final assembly building (FAL 1) that was built in 2013. But like I have mentioned several times before they didn't have the money at the time, and they quickly found out that it would be much cheaper to convert the underused CRJ hangars.
But that was a temporary solution, and they knew that one day or another they would have to build a proper FAL 2. And this would also free up some space in the modified CRJ hangars for preflight and delivery activities, which would inevitably be increasing in tune with the ramp-up at FAL 1 and FAL 2.
In the meantime production at FAL 1 has been frozen and remains at an anemic level instead of increasing like it would normally do during a normal ramp up schedule. That is because FAL 2 is presently saturated due to problems with various suppliers and some production issues.
As for the CRJ final assembly building there are two assembly lines inside. One of them is no longer producing aircraft and is being used as a storage area for the C Series that have nowhere to go when they come off the assembly line because FAL 2 is saturated, as mentioned earlier.
Photo: Normand Hamel - June 10, 2017
Since Bombardier had to modify one of the two doors in front of the two assembly lines to accommodate the taller C Series I assume they will have to do the same with the other door when the CRJ will have moved out of there.
However I think both doors are already wide enough to allow the C Series to get through, with or without its winglets installed. So it is essentially a height problem, for the tail does't clear with the original configuration.
Originally the FAL 2 building that they have postponed in 2012 was meant to be a moving line, à la 737, and it would have had four stations in a nose-to-tail configuration that would have allowed the C Series to come in at one end and go out at the other.
This will not be possible with the existing CRJ FAL however, because the two doors are located at the same end. At the opposite end there are only truck doors for aircraft parts delivery. That is where the CRJ comes in, piece by piece, and goes out at the other end as a complete aircraft.
What this means is that when the C Series will arrive from FAL 1 they will have to enter through one of the two hangar doors and proceed down one of the assembly lines, and as each aircraft will progress on that line it will eventually have to make a U-turn to come out in the opposite direction via the other assembly line that runs parallel to it.
That is unless they create an opening at the other end. But I don't know if that would be technically feasible from an architectural point of view. It would be really neat though, because FAL 1 and FAL 2 would be directly in line with each other, and the aircraft coming out of FAL 1 would only have to travel a couple hundred feet to enter inside FAL 2, just like in the original concept.
This move will have a serious impact on the C Series production rate, which will no longer be limited by the FAL 2 capacity.
FAL 1 has the potential to produce at least 140 aircraft per year, and I have the impression that this new FAL 2 might be able to keep up with this very high rate, but I am not absolutely sure. It all depends if they can open up the other end of the CRJ FAL or not.
So when is this transformation going to take place you ask? To be honest I don't know. A lot of this is speculation based on rumours. But you can be sure that I will keep you posted as I learn more about this fascinating development.
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