Bombardier's CSeries "very close" to flying again -source

TORONTO, Sept 4 Thu Sep 4, 2014 5:42pm EDT

TORONTO, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Bombardier Inc's troubled CSeries is on the brink of resuming test flights in coming days, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

"It is very close. There should be some good news on the test program within the next week," the source said.

The exact day is unclear, since it will depend on standard operating issues such as weather, according to the source.

Bombardier's ambitious, multi-billion dollar CSeries program stalled during the summer when the test planes were grounded following an engine failure in late May.

Bombardier has said since June that flying would resume "in the coming weeks", and a spokesman could not narrow that time frame further on Thursday.

Speculation has increased among experts and industry watchers that the aircraft, which is about 18 to 24 months behind schedule, will be back in the air sometime this month.

The CSeries plane, which Bombardier claims has superior operating and fuel efficiencies, competes against the smaller jets made by aerospace giants Boeing Co and Airbus Group .

Airbus' single-aisle A320neo, redesigned to be more efficient than its current generation, is now being readied for its first test flight, expected in the second half of September.

Bombardier believes the 100- to 149-seat segment will be lucrative and it has high hopes the CSeries will corner a significant chunk of that market.

But firm orders have been slow to materialize for the Montreal-based plane and train maker as many carriers wait for more test flight hours, and entry into commercial service.

The multiple delays and engine issues prompted Swedish carrier Braathens Aviation to back out of its slot as the first operator of the new jetliner last week, though the company said it remained fully committed to the CSeries. (Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Ken Wills)