TORONTO (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc’s (BBDb.TO) all-new CSeries aircraft is poised to take to the skies before September 17, when the company is hosting an event to celebrate the maiden voyage, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.
Montreal-based Bombardier, which has already delayed the new aircraft’s maiden flight three times, said on Friday it has now received a flight test permit from industry regulator Transport Canada, paving the way for the maiden flight of the aircraft - the first all-new narrow-body jet to be built in decades.
Bombardier is hoping to carve a niche for itself in the cutthroat airplane market with the fuel-efficient, medium-haul jet, but the all-new CSeries needs an avalanche of orders to be able to vie against Boeing’s (BA.N) 737 Series and Airbus’s EAD.PA A320 Series aircraft that dominate this segment.
The company, which said last month that it expects the first flight to occur “in the coming weeks,” reiterated that message on Friday but would not provide further details.
The source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the flight is likely to occur before September 17, when the company is hosting an event in Mirabel, Quebec for its partners, and others, to celebrate the maiden voyage.
The exact date of the first flight has not yet been nailed down, as the jet still has to undergo high-speed taxi tests, landing gear tests and other checks before it takes to the air, said the source.
Bombardier said the first flight of the CSeries jet is also contingent on “optimal” weather conditions.
Shares of Bombardier were up 2.5 percent at C$4.85 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.
Earlier this month, Bombardier conceded that the CSeries’ entry into service would be delayed by about two months due to the delays in the test flight. The company has stated repeatedly that the jet will be in service a year after the first flight.
Many industry observers have been skeptical about the company’s target to put the plane into service by mid-2014. Some analysts, who gleaned information from regulatory filings, last week noted that they only expect the aircraft to enter into service sometime in 2015.
The first flight will be the culmination of a five-year, $3.4-billion development program for the CSeries.
Bombardier says the aircraft, designed for the 100- to 149-seat market, is expected to be up to 12,000 lbs (5,443 kgs) lighter than other aircraft in the same category. Weight reductions in aircraft typically result in reductions in fuel burn and cost savings for airlines.
Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Phil Berlowitz