Bombardier Inc. has given up providing a firm time line for the initial flight of its new C Series aircraft after failing for the third time to meet its own deadline for the launch.
The Montreal-based transportation giant said Wednesday that the plane will take off "in the coming weeks" – not by the end of July, the date set last month when the company failed to meet the end-of-June deadline it announced late last year. The June deadline was set after Bombardier failed to meet the original target date of December, 2012.
"The highly technical last steps are taking more time than initially anticipated," the company said in a statement Wednesday.
As delays in the development of new aircraft go, eight months – if the test flight occurs in August – is minor compared with the three-year delay of the Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner and the repeated setbacks Airbus SAS faced in getting its A380 superjumbo to customers.
But this third postponement is another blow to a $3.4-billion airplane program that has sparked a transformation of the single-aisle segment of the commercial airplane market and is critical to Bombardier's future as the once-buoyant regional jet market declines.
In addition, "management credibility may be impacted with each subsequent delay and should additional issues crop up over the course of the C Series program, the benefit that investors are willing to provide could diminish," RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst Walter Spracklin said in a report to clients Wednesday.
Sales of the new plane have stalled as airlines wait for the C Series to make its first flight.
Bombardier spokesman Marc Duchesne said he could not be more specific about when the first flight will occur.
"We're almost there," Mr. Duchesne said.
News of the delay sent Bombardier's stock down 1 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The development of the C Series, which features a new engine that promises fuel savings of 20 per cent compared with existing planes in the segment sparked a strong response from Airbus, which offered a new engine on its A320 family of aircraft. The A320 with the new engine option has been a runaway success that in turn forced Boeing to develop the 737MAX, which also offers a more fuel-efficient engine than those on its existing models.
Bombardier applied for a flight test permit from Transport Canada several weeks ago and said that application is progressing. In his note, Mr. Spracklin said the federal department is likely under extra scrutiny after the railway disaster at Lac-Mégantic, Que., that has killed 47 people.