CS300: How Does an Airline Prepare for the Arrival of a New Fleet?
Gerhard Ramcke and Javier Camarasa Valiente, two airBaltic pilots, visited Mirabel, Canada in May to meet with Bombardier engineers and technicians. While the Bombardier employees are conscientiously building the first CS300s that will carry airBaltic passengers, Gerhard is serving as the Chief Pilot for the CS300 fleet and overseeing the operation from the airline’s point of view. He recalls the moment when the C Series project was announced and airBaltic placed an order in 2012 - he immediately thought to himself, “yes, this is the right thing to do.”
Gerhard Ramcke, Chief Pilot of CS300 and Chief Theoretical Instructor of CS300 Artis Riekstiņš , entering the exact aircraft which will join the airBaltic fleet later in 2016
After the complete arrival of CS300 aircraft, airBaltic will operate the youngest fleet amongst European airlines. AirBaltic’s average aircraft age today is 11.9 years; after adding in twenty CS300s, the average age will be just 2.5 years. It’s a perfect fit for airBaltic: “The CS300 is state-of-the-art in commercial aviation. Instead of modifying older designs and upgrading previous models like other manufacturers, Bombardier started from zero, from blank paper. That’s why C Series has a beautiful design (inside and out), excellent aerodynamics, the newest materials and the most advanced avionics,” said Javier.
Javier and airBaltic Training Center VP Vilmantas Mažonas in airBaltic’s first CS300 - green even on the inside
But the most important question - what will the CS300 bring to airBaltic passengers? Gerhard emphasizes three main things that will take the travel experience to a new level: “1. The modern and new cabin interior. 2. Extra space in the cabin in general, in the middle seat and in the overhead luggage bin. 3. The reward of flying in an aircraft that produces less noise and less emissions from fuel burn.” Javier admits that the aircraft seemed to be even bigger than he thought. “The interior is very spacious. The seat configuration is rows of 2 and 3 seats, which at the beginning could seem a little strange. However, it permits a wider aisle and small details that I love, like how the middle seat of the three is wider than the two aside. This way you never have to worry about being squeezed in between two hockey players.” And as ice hockey is the most popular team sport in Canada and Latvia, this aspect may have been a major consideration when seats were designed! This could also be good motivation for Team Latvia to make the Winter Olympics in Ice Hockey in 2018, as airBaltic carried them to Sochi in 2014.
Artis Riekstiņš and the future “office” of airBaltic CS300 pilots in process
The CS300 is a great example of the future of engineering, in which humans oversee computers handling principal operations. This way, pilots are able to focus on essentials (Fly-by-wire system). Both pilots emphasized this aspect of the CS300 and highlighted this as the main challenge for pilots switching to the CS300. Javier explains: “In a conventional airplane, you are ‘fighting with the elements’ and applying small corrections at all times to maintain the desired flight path. In the C Series, Fly-by-wire does this for you; the less inputs you make in the controls, the better.” Gerhard agreed that the biggest challenge for a pilot becomes processing data: “As the aircraft is very easy to fly and handle, it is side work like data management which might be challenging for pilots coming from an aircraft like Boeing that is two generations older.”
airBaltic pilot and Training center instructor Javier Camarasa Valiente
Finally, when it comes to where they would take the CS300 on their first flight, Gerhard says that he would love to have an outbound flight: “somewhere that we can show the world that it is airBaltic, with the green tails, who are the first to fly the 300 version of the most modern single-aisle passenger jet in the world.” Javier’s first flight would be inbound: “on my first flight, it would be nice to fly home - Riga.” This means that we already have a perfect pilot team for the first flight back and forth to the new home of the CS300 - Riga, Latvia.
airBaltic CSeries project team (Fleet Project Managers - Kristaps Lapsa, Jevgēnijs Lavšovs, SVP Flight Operarions - Pauls Juris Cālitis, Javier Camarasa Valiante, Vilmantas Mažonas, Gerhard Ramcke and Artis Riekstiņš) visiting Bombardier colleagues and airBaltic’s first CS300 in Mirabel, Canada