UPDATE 2-Bombardier delays first flight of CSeries for third time

Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:19pm EDT
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(Adds potential impact on orders, concern about entry-into-service date)

By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, July 24 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc delayed the maiden flight of its CSeries jetliner for a third time on Wednesday, promising the flight "in the coming weeks" instead of July, a move likely to rattle airlines that have stepped up to buy the all-new plane.

"This might make people a bit jittery... This is a new market for them. A lot depends upon the confidence of customers," said aviation industry expert Richard Aboulafia, a vice-president at consulting firm Teal Group Corp.

The delay casts new doubt on Bombardier's ambitious mid-2014 entry-into-service target for the CSeries. Aboulafia expects entry-into-service sometime in the first half of 2015.

The first flight will be the culmination of a five-year, $3.4-billion development program for the CSeries, a fuel-efficient plane that is the first all-new narrow-bodied jetliner in decades.

Bombardier hopes eventually to corner 50 percent of the lucrative 100- to 149-seat airliner segment with the plane.

The Montreal-based company has announced 177 firm CSeries orders so far, far short of its target of at least 300 firm orders by the middle of next year. It failed to firm up new CSeries business last month at the Paris Air Show, which saw splashy news and big orders from its competitors.

"We are concerned that management credibility may be impacted with each subsequent delay, and should additional issues crop up over the course of the CSeries program, the benefit that investors are willing to provide could diminish," RBC analyst Walter Spracklin said in a client note, but added that a delay of a few weeks is not material from a cost and development perspective.   Continued...