Airbus acknowledged its cold-weather testing team was “very lucky” to get temperatures consistently near or below -40C as the manufacturer explained why its newest aircraft is spending time in Yellowknife this week.
The A220-300, formerly known as the Bombardier CS300, is built by a Québec-based partnership between Airbus and Bombardier under the Airbus name.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the partnership explained why the aircraft – which has been in commercial operation since December 2016 – is now undergoing further testing in Yellowknife.
Annabelle Duchesne said the A220 flew to the Northwest Territories to work on “expanding the cold temperature operations envelope of the aircraft down to -40C.”
“We have been lucky to get very cold temperatures in the past few days,” said Duchesne by email. “This will be helpful in gathering the required data we are looking to get in order to test our aircraft operations in a very cold environment.”
Cabin Radio understands the A220 is currently certified to -35C. Other aircraft are certified to fly in colder conditions, so the A220’s certification to -40C would make the jet more competitive, and practical, in Arctic environments.
The A220 is a medium-range regional airliner slightly larger than most currently serving Yellowknife. It’s not known if any airline serving the NWT has expressed interest in the A220 for northern operations, though Air Canada has one A220 in service and 44 more on order.
Buffalo Airways is hosting the A220 in Yellowknife this week.
In a video posted to YouTube, Buffalo’s Mikey McBryan documented some of the work Airbus is doing to achieve its new certification for the jet. (McBryan, a day later, said he had been asked to take the video down though did not say who made the request.)
“The Airbus has to get as cold as possible,” McBryan explained in the video, showing the aircraft resting on the tarmac in conditions below -40C. “Fingers crossed it gets even colder,” he added. “Imagine hoping it gets colder. Isn’t that crazy?”
While Airbus said the schedule of its test crew in Yellowknife would not permit interviews, McBryan walked viewers through his understanding of the certification process.
“As it gets into night-time, they have to shut this aircraft off,” he said. “No ground power, no heat. They’ve got to freeze this airplane for 12 hours. No human interaction. They’ve got to turn this aircraft into an ice cube.
“Then, in the morning, they come here and they’ve got to get it flying to pass their cold-weather certification.”
The final shot of McBryan’s video appeared to show the aircraft successfully taking to the sky. However, there was no official indication of how testing had progressed.
McBryan, closing with a plug for Yellowknife’s cold-weather testing capabilities, singled out billionaire Elon Musk’s electric vehicle venture as a potential future client.
“If you need cold-weather testing, come to Yellowknife,” he said. “Tesla – I’d love to try that new Cybertruck.”