Bombardier Inc. says it's "very close" to first flight of its much-anticipated C Series aircraft after getting clearance from Transport Canada.
"Five years in the making and today, following receipt of Transport Canada's flight test permit, we are very close to the C Series airliner's first flight – a historic moment for Bombardier and a game-changing moment for the industry," Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Mike Arcamone said in a news release Friday.
"Pending optimal weather, the C Series aircraft will soon take to the skies."
The company said maiden flight is "expected in the coming weeks."
Citing unnamed sources, the TVA television network in Quebec reported Friday that the inaugural flight is set for Sept. 17 and that the company has already begun sending invitations.
Bombardier Aerospace spokeswoman Marianella Delabarrera said Sept. 17 is only a "tentative" date for an event distinct from first flight: A gathering of employees, stakeholders, suppliers, government officials and others to "celebrate" the C Series' initial flight. "It's not a firm public date," she said.
First flight is scheduled to take place within the next few weeks, weather permitting, she said.
The C Series program has already experienced two recent delays in first flight, after Bombardier failed to meet its own deadline of being airborne by the end of 2012.
Earlier this month, ratings agency Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC revised its outlook on Bombardier to negative from stable because of those two recent delays.
Sales of the new plane – Bombardier's $3.4-billion effort to grow beyond its regional and business jet markets into the narrow-body segment of the large jet space – have also been sluggish.
Bombardier said Friday that receiving the flight permit from Transport Canada follows a series of pre-flight tests including low-speed taxi runs. The flight test vehicle is preparing for high-speed taxi runs in which the plane simulates take-off speeds.