CAE’s Augmented Engineering Environment Helps CSeries Meet Its Goals
As Bombardier works day and night to achieve its goal of flying the first CSeries test airplane by the end of this year, its many suppliers are working just as hard to make sure they meet their goals, defined by the Canadian airframer as “delivering out-of-the-box maturity on schedule and on specification.” Training systems specialist CAE is one of those suppliers, and in fact plays a central role. After conducting a competitive bidding process, Bombardier selected CAE in 2009 to provide support in the design, integration and development of the single-aisle CSeries.
What CAE is doing for Bombardier is related to, yet quite different from, the activities CAE is best known for, namely, simulator-based flight training. “We have packaged a whole series of tools and software, which are aimed toward the development of engineers in the aerospace sector,” explained Marc St-Hilaire, vice president of advance technology and innovation at CAE. “We’ve labeled this the Augmented Engineering Environment (AEE). What it does is take the definition of aircraft, piece-by-piece as it is defined by the aerospace engineer, and builds a simulation model to deliver to the OEM so–along with all the other models–we can assemble a virtual simulated aircraft much earlier in the development timeline than has been done before.”
CAE markets this AEE package to aircraft OEMs. Besides Bombardier, CAE has sold AEE to Mitsubishi for the MRJ and to NAL of India for its turboprop single. CAE also supplied an engineering simulator to Embraer in the mid-1990s to develop its fly-by-wire system.
“When we sell this capability to the OEMs,” St-Hilaire said, “We say, ‘Try to picture a six-month delay at the end of your program and assign a value to this.’ You run into figures like $300- to $400 million. This is the type of benefit if you can achieve by finding and fixing any errors six months before.”
CAE begins by creating “a virtual aircraft in software, using generic models,” St-Hilaire said. “Early in the CSeries program, during the joint-definition phase, we built–with Bombardier and its suppliers–a complete CSeries [aircraft], all virtual. These simulation models are now being used to power the static ISTAR [Integrated System and Testing Rig] and the ESim, at CAE.” ISTAR is located in Bombardier’s Ciasta facility at Montreal’s Dorval Airport, where the CSeries will be assembled. Ciasta stands for the Complete Integrated Aircraft Systems Test Area.
AEE connects the Bombardier test rig (ISTAR), with the CAE ESim test cockpit, to the complete virtual aircraft. ESim will not have motion, but will have a complete visual system. Test pilots will be able to fly it as they do a training simulator. It will be used to integrate the fly-by-wire control, avionics, landing gear, FADECs, all the systems with real hardware, and real LRUs.
“ISTAR and ESim will allow us to test the dynamic interface,” said St-Hilaire. “Dynamic interface means that I’m expecting this type of behavior, and I’m communicating an order to you and I’m expecting that type of response. Typically, the OEM would discover the dynamic interface only after it puts the aircraft together, when all the boxes start exchanging in real time. With AEE technology, you can start connecting the boxes in the system and testing them dynamically much earlier in the program.
“With ESim you have a cockpit that is talking to a bunch of line-replaceable units (LRUs), which are essentially electronic avionics and control-system boxes, while all the mechanical components are simulated,” St-Hilaire explained. “So you are in a mostly digital world talking to real LRUs. This gives you the flexibility to drill down into the data buses and box-to-box exchanges. This way you can intercept a data bus and read what is on it and analyze it. So it is really essential to troubleshooting box-to-box issues, snags and intercommunication.”
ISTAR also interfaces with real LRUs, but has mechanical actuators and hydraulic circuitry, too. The system “flies” without leaving the ground. “ISTAR is mostly a mechanical rig, with big power actuators pushing and real boxes controlling them,” said St-Hilaire. “So, for this purpose, we cannot intercept data between the actuator and the box because we need to leave this system alone to maintain its integrity with the aircraft. So you have the virtual aircraft commanding the box and the box commanding the actuator. The main objective of the ISTAR is to load and exercise the mechanical system.”
The scale of the CSeries program makes it CAE’s biggest AEE project to date and St-Hilaire is confident AEE, ISTAR and ESim will help Bombardier meet its timeline goals. “Now that we have started to test and certify, where you see real systems being activated in a dynamic environment, it’s fabulous. This will be a huge benefit to the schedule,” he concluded.
Full Flight Simulator
CAE will also support CSeries entry in service with a full-flight simulator. This will be delivered this summer for the flight-test program, and initially will be qualified as level C.
Founded in 1947, CAE has gross revenues of $1.8 billion in 2011 and employs 8,000 people in more than 30 countries. It claims to have the largest installed base of simulators and flight training devices in the world–more than 1,300–and trains more the 100,000 pilots each year.