Bombardier Delays CSeries Jet Maiden Flight for Third Time

Bombardier Inc. delayed the maiden flight of its CSeries jet for the third time since November, saying its largest-ever plane needs more preparation ahead of a showdown with Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS models.

The first takeoff will “occur in the coming weeks,” Montreal-based Bombardier said in a statement today, signaling that it would miss a goal of this month. Having the extra time will allow for continued reviews of flight systems and completing software integration, the company said.

Completing flight trials in a timely manner is necessary to get the CSeries in service by mid-2014, said Chris Murray, a PI Financial Corp. analyst who rates the shares buy. In November, Bombardier put off the debut until June, then shifted last month to a July target for the initial flight of a plane intended to help the company double revenue in the next decade.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s certainly a disappointment,” Murray said in a telephone interview. “The expectation is that the aircraft is going to fly in the near future. But the focus needs to be that the flight test program progresses safely.”

Bombardier’s widely traded Class B shares fell 1.4 percent to C$5 at the close in Toronto.

Typical Timetable

Marc Duchesne, a Bombardier spokesman, said that while he couldn’t give a date for when the CSeries would start flying for airlines, a typical timeline would be about a year after an aircraft’s first flight.

“We’re planning the entrance to service by mid-2014 but at the time our focus is on supporting the first flight,” Duchesne said in a telephone interview.

The CSeries will seat about 110 to 160 people, a step up from Bombardier’s signature regional jets. Bombardier, which also builds trains and business jets, has said the CSeries probably will contribute as much as $8 billion in annual sales in the next decade. Revenue was $16.8 billion last year.

Bombardier’s challenge to the Boeing-Airbus duopoly, the CSeries’ reliance on a new engine and materials and the delays in getting the plane airborne have all attracted scrutiny.

On June 16, the company reaffirmed the target of a debut flight in June, and Qatar Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters at the Paris Air Show a day later that he still has “interest in CSeries, but we want it to fly.” Nine days after that, the timetable slipped to July.

PI Financial’s Murray said that while he was surprised that Bombardier failed to give a date today for the initial flight, he wasn’t worried about the delay would affect the planemaker’s longer-term schedule.

“You approach first flight in the program with a certain amount of skepticism and maybe perhaps a bit of caution,” Murray said. “At this particular point, we really have no indication that the delay is going to be severe or substantial.”

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