Bombardier gets test permit for Learjet 85 first flight

TORONTO Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:44pm EST

Workers install the tail section on a full-scale cabin mockup of the all-composite Bombardier Aerospace Learjet 85 business jet , four days before the opening of the 48th Paris Air Show, at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 11, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Workers install the tail section on a full-scale cabin mockup of the all-composite Bombardier Aerospace Learjet 85 business jet , four days before the opening of the 48th Paris Air Show, at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) said on Wednesday it has obtained a first flight test permit for its delayed Learjet 85 from the Federal Aviation Administration and expects the aircraft's maiden voyage in "coming weeks."

Bombardier, which has successfully completed engine run and low-speed taxi tests on the jet, said it will now finalize the aircraft configuration and conduct more engine run and high-speed taxi tests at its Wichita, Kansas plant in preparation for first flight.

The Montreal-based company recently said it would not set a schedule for entry-into-service for the Learjet 85, its largest Learjet yet, until it had flown the aircraft for up to two months.

Previously, the company had targeted first flight by the end of 2013 and entry-into-service by summer 2014.

"It was a little bit challenging to get all the components done and producible, but that's behind us now," Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Pierre Beaudoin told analysts on a conference call last week. "We feel very confident about our capacity to manufacture this aircraft as anticipated."

The first flight test vehicle, or FTV1, is complete and other flight test vehicles are in various stages of fabrication and assembly, the company said.

Bombardier still faces headaches with its four-times delayed, over-budget CSeries narrowbody jet, which will compete with smaller planes made by Boeing Co (BA.N) and Airbus Group NV (AIR.PA).

The CSeries, which is not expected to go into commercial service until the second half of 2015, will cost $4.4 billion to develop, some $1.05 billion over original estimates.

(Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Chris Reese)

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