(Adds new exec quotes, stock price)
By Allison Martell
TORONTO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Canada’s Bombardier Inc said on Thursday that its new CSeries narrow-body, medium-range commercial jet is 85 percent through the certification process, with just over 2,400 test hours completed on the aircraft.
Bombardier aims to certify its $5.4 billion jet by the end of 2015 and deliver it in the first half of 2016 to Lufthansa-owned launch customer Swiss. The Montreal-based plane and train maker also said it remains comfortable with its order book despite not announcing new firm orders since September 2014.
“We’re nearing the end and progress has been very strong,” said CSeries Vice President Rob Dewar in Toronto, where Bombardier displayed one of its test planes for workers at its Downsview plant.
Commercial Aircraft President Fred Cromer said he was still comfortable with Bombardier achieving its goal of 300 firm orders by the aircraft’s entry into service, despite struggling to find buyers for its much-delayed plane.
Bombardier now has 243 firm orders for the CSeries.
Cromer said some airline customers may be waiting to see the aircraft in service before ordering the plane.
“It’s natural with the introduction of a new plane for some customers to take a bit of a wait-and-see approach,” he said.
Bombardier has spent heavily on the CSeries and other development programs, putting pressure on its balance sheet, and in recent months the company’s stock has set new 20-year lows.
Bombardier stock climbed on Thursday for a second day in Toronto after Reuters reported the company rejected an offer by Beijing Infrastructure to acquire a majority or full stake in its rail unit, which it valued at up to $8 billion.
Cromer said he is focused on the CSeries program and not on the company’s stock price.
“There is stock price volatility, there is market volatility going on as well. So if you watch that every day it sort of drives you crazy,” he said. “So I think our job is to continue to prove in terms of execution and then it makes the investor story a little bit easier.”
Bombardier also said that tests show the CSeries is the quietest jet in its class. (With additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Susan Taylor in Toronto; Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler)