This week, certain aerospace supply chains have additional cause for celebration with major milestones of inaugural flights for new innovative aircraft being achieved. First flight is a big deal in aerospace since it demonstrates to potential customers that newly developed aircraft have reached final stages of development, and for extended supply chain teams, that the volume manufacturing phase of these aircraft is closer to reality.

On Monday, Bombardier’s new C-Series aircraft completed its maiden voyage achieving a major milestone in its attempts to penetrate the single aisle aircraft markets and compete with the likes of Bombardier C-Series First maiden FlightAirbus and Boeing. Videos of this maiden flight can be viewed at this Bombardier web site link.

Supply Chain Matters first introduced our readership to the C-Series program in October of 2010 under the headline:  C-Series Joins in the Global Supply Chain Outsourcing Perils of Aerospace.  At the time, we noted that Bombardier was taking a huge strategic gamble on the supply chain deployment and market launch of the new and innovative aircraft which was originally scheduled for market introduction this year.  The C-Series supply chain is global in scope. Major components such as fuselage wings and tail are sourced in China, Ireland, Italy, and other countries.  In a posting earlier this year, we speculated whether Bombardier as a disruptor could compete with the two other aerospace giants. With this week’s completion of maiden voyage, the aircraft is reported to be nine months behind original schedule, which is not all that bad considering the development track records of major rivals.

On Monday, the new C-Series 120 passenger jet took off from an airfield near the Bombardier factory north of Montreal with thousands representing Bombardier employees, suppliers and customers looking on.  The aircraft completed a two and a half hour flight.  According to a report penned by Jon Ostrower published in the Wall Street Journal, the aircraft version that flew on Monday lists of $63 million, with a larger version priced at $72 million, before discounts.  Comparable models from rival Airbus and Boeing list in the range of $70-$90 million and the WSJ reports both rivals are aggressively discounting to keep Bombardier from gaining market traction. To date, there are 177 orders for the C-Series, including an order for 60 aircraft from Lufthansa’s Swiss International Airlines.

First customer ship for the C-Series is expected to be completed shortly after completion of certification by global regulators, which could take up to a year, barring any major unexpected issues. 

On Tuesday, Boeing completed a five hour maiden voyage of the Dreamliner 787-9 aircraft, a slightly larger version of the currently operational 787. Video of the 787-9 maiden flight can be viewed at this Boeing web site link.

What makes this significant is that the “Dash Nine” was designed and built with different supply chain Boeing 787-9 250_87design parameters than the current version. Instead of outsourcing major aspects of design and manufacturing to external suppliers, this newest version relied more on Boeing resources.  In its reporting of the event, Jon Ostrower of the Wall Street Journal quoted sources as indicating that Boeing engineers designed 40 percent of the parts associated with the original Dreamliner, and that Boeing reversed course on the “Dash Nine” by designing as much as 60% to 70% of this model. Similarly, more of major component manufacturing was brought under Boeing control. Also noted by the WSJ is that this newer version accounts for 41 percent of current backlog orders for the Dreamliner family, and factoring additional orders for the 787-10 model slated for 2018 delivery,  three-quarters of current customer backlog comes from these newer models. This is somewhat of an indication that prospective customers were drawn to the different features and composition for both the 787-9 and 787-10 models.

thumps_upSupply Chain Matters extends both a Thumbs-up and well done recognition to both Bombardier Aerospace and Boeing Commercial Aircraft product development and supply chain teams for reaching these important milestones in their respective programs. They join Airbus and its extended teams on celebrating the recent maiden voyage of the new A350 aircraft.

Boeing and the industry are applying a lot of internal learning from previous efforts at global design and supply chain outsourcing and that is an important takeaway as a whole and for other industry supply chain leaders.

Bob Ferrari