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Bombardier pushes back C Series maiden flight

A mock fuselage of a C Series jet in a Bombardier plant in Montreal.

christinne muschi The Globe and Mail

Bombardier Inc. has delayed the first flight of its new C Series airplane again, pushing the deadline out a month to the end of July.

The maiden flight has been put off to allow software upgrades, Bombardier said in a statement. The first flight was originally scheduled to take place before the end of last year, but late in 2012, the Montreal-based transportation giant said it would be delayed until the end of June.

In recent weeks, including during the Paris Air Show last week, company officials said development and testing were on track for a June flight.

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Several ground tests have been completed, Bombardier said, and the company has applied to Transport Canada for a test flight permit for the first C Series.

The $3.4-billion program represents the company's bid to vault into the market for large commercial jets and expand beyond its offerings of regional jets, short-haul turboprops and business jets. The move is taking it into direct competition with Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. in the market for single-aisle planes offering between 100 and 160 seats.

In addition to the culmination of five years of design and development work on the plane, the first flight has been expected to be a catalyst for sales as airlines hold off orders until the plane is in the air and undergoing testing to make sure it meets the promises Bombardier has made on performance.

Airlines have signed 177 firm orders for smaller CS100 and larger CS300 versions of the planes, plus another 200 or so options, purchase rights and letters of intent.

"Bombardier expects some airlines to firm up their options following the first flight," Benoit Poirier, aerospace analyst for Desjardins Securities Inc. said in a note to clients.

A delay of seven months beyond the original date of the first flight is small compared with Boeing going three years past the scheduled first flight of its 787 wide-bodied plane before getting it in the air or similar delays that plagued the Airbus A380 super jumbo jet.

But it is the second extension of the time for the first flight of the C Series, a plane for which Bombardier has had trouble securing many new orders in recent months as airlines wait to see it leave the ground.

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"While a push of first flight by a month is not material from a cost/development perspective, it will likely impact negatively near-term sentiment and again call into question the readiness of the C Series avionics and fly-by-wire system," Walter Spracklin, who follows the company for RBC Dominion Securities, said in a research note.

News of the delay sent Bombardier's stock down 10 cents or 2 per cent to $4.57 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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