Bombardier readies a third CSeries jet for flight testing

TORONTO Mon Feb 10, 2014 2:09pm EST

TORONTO Feb 10 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc has delivered a third CSeries jet for flight testing, and says it is making incremental progress in its delay-plagued program to get the new narrow-body passenger jet to market.

Bombardier, which has delayed the $3.9 billion program four times, said late on Sunday that its FTV3 (Flight Test Vehicle 3) will have its first test flights at the company's manufacturing site in Mirabel, Quebec, in the coming weeks and then be ferried to its Wichita, Kansas, facility for avionics testing.

Bombardier said last month that it would postpone putting the CSeries into commercial service until the second half of 2015, news that sent its stock tumbling more than 8 percent. Shares were up 2 Canadian cents at C$4.21 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

The Montreal-based company blamed the delays on longer-than-expected testing of overall systems and software on the aircraft, which will compete against smaller planes made by Boeing Co and Airbus Group NV.

Bombardier has not said how much the latest delay will cost, but could provide details when it reports fourth-quarter financial results on Thursday.

Bombardier aims to win 300 firm orders for the CSeries by the time it enters service. It now has 201 such orders. An existing customer, which asked not to be identified, ordered three CS300 aircraft on Sunday, at a list of price of about $228 million.

CSeries general manager Rob Dewar said in a video update that "we're really on track with our performance." Recent FTV1 tests on engine relights, in which an engine is shut down and restarted during flight, went better than expected, he said.

A fourth test flight vehicle has been powered on and a fifth vehicle will have interiors installed in the coming months, he said. There are 10 CSeries aircraft in various stages of testing and production.

Bombardier spokeswoman Marianella de la Barrera would not say how many hours of flight testing, versus ground testing, have been completed. Industry experts and analysts have been concerned by the slower-than-normal pace of flight testing.

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