Bombardier Targets 2015 CSeries Debut While Probing Fire

Bombardier Inc. still plans to have its new CSeries jet enter service in the second half of 2015, though until the root cause of last week’s engine fire is known the schedule isn’t assured, a senior executive said.

Bombardier and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., are disassembling the unit that caught fire May 29 in ground tests and aim to have answers later this week about the cause, said Guy Hachey, president and chief operating officer of the Montreal-based company’s aerospace division.

“If it turns out to be something major, we would have to revisit” the schedule, Hachey said yesterday in an interview at the International Air Transport Association meeting in Doha. Precise reasons for the engine fire haven’t been established, he said, adding that nothing has turned up so far indicating design changes are needed that would throw the program further off schedule.

Bombardier has pledged to have the smaller of two CSeries models, the CS100, enter service in the second half of 2015, with the larger CS300 following suit six months later.

The fire added to setbacks for a program already plagued by delays and rising development costs. The plane, dubbed Flight Test Vehicle 1, suffered damage along with the engine at the company’s facility in Mirabel, Quebec. That aircraft and three others have been grounded, and the engine has been shipped to a Pratt facility in Connecticut to be analyzed.

‘Some Fixes’

Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Pierre Beaudoin said damage to the CSeries prototype won’t prevent it from flying again once the cause of the engine failure has been identified.

“There are going to be some fixes, but we feel confident that we will be able to put that airplane back in flight,” Beaudoin told reporters yesterday at an event sponsored by the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.

Bombardier is “confident that we will find the problem rapidly with Pratt & Whitney and that we will be able to meet our schedule to enter into service in the second half of 2015,” Beaudoin said. “Absolutely we have confidence in the engine.”

Bombardier shares fell 1.4 percent to C$3.64 yesterday in Toronto trading. They have declined 21 percent this year.

It would be “premature to speculate on a final cause” of the incident, Ray Hernandez, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, said yesterday in an e-mail. Pratt is “working closely with Bombardier to ensure it is fully understood,” he said.

“The whole point of testing an aircraft is to find out if everything works perfectly and then fix it before it enters service,” Hernandez said.

‘Too Early’

Chris Krepski, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said in a telephone interview that the incident is “still under assessment” and it’s too early to say when the investigation will be completed.

Any time lost in flight trials would extend the struggles for a plane that Bombardier envisions producing as much as $8 billion in annual revenue later this decade. Orders for the plane haven’t met Bombardier’s target, and few major airlines have embraced a jet that the company bills as a challenger to Boeing Co. and Airbus Group NV aircraft.

Bombardier has completed 330 hours of test flights on its CS100 model out of 2,400 hours anticipated, Hachey said. While testing in the early weeks was slow, he said the planemaker plans to increase the pace as soon as the planes are cleared to fly again.

About 4,000 hours of engine testing have been conducted since trials began in September 2010, according to Bombardier’s website. The company has said the CSeries will cost about 15 percent less to operate and produce less noise than competing models.

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