Bombardier's all-new CSeries makes inaugural flight

Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:25pm EDT
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By Solarina Ho

MIRABEL, Quebec (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc's (BBDb.TO: Quote) CSeries jetliner successfully completed its first flight on Monday, a key step in a $3.4 billion program to develop the first all-new narrow-body plane of its size in decades that the company hopes will increase sales.

But the new jet still faces an ambitious, 12-month deadline to start carrying commercial passengers, and tough sales competition from bigger rivals Airbus EAD.PA and Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote).

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Michele Arcamone told a press conference on Monday the development cost had climbed to $3.9 billion, but he later sought to backtrack on that figure, telling reporters the company had always targeted costs at "less than $4 billion" and saying that $3.4 billion remained the official estimate.

He said the cost fluctuates due to suppliers, materials and other factors.

The white-and-blue CS100 test aircraft landed beside the Bombardier plant in Mirabel, Quebec, at 12:23 p.m. EDT (1623 GMT) before a crowd of employees, media and spectators.

"It flew very well," said Bombardier chief test pilot Chuck Ellis on stepping out of the cockpit after the flight. "It's a very, very nice airplane."

About 2-1/2 hours earlier, the plane rose from the tarmac amid cheers and surprisingly little noise from its new engines.

"You could hardly hear the take-off," said Martin Gauss, chief executive officer of Latvian carrier AirBaltic, which has ordered 10 of the larger CS300 planes, which seat 130 passengers.   Continued...

Bombardier employees and guests watch the CSeries aircraft taxi on the runway for its first test flight in Mirabel, Quebec, September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi