(Adds analyst's comment, reaction from Pratt, context on
engines and competition)
By Allison Martell and Lewis Krauskopf
TORONTO May 30 Bombardier Inc's new
CSeries jetliner suffered an "engine-related incident" during
stationary maintenance testing on Thursday, prompting a halt to
flight tests and dealing another blow to the plane maker's
effort to compete with Boeing and Airbus in the narrow-body
Bombardier said on Friday it was investigating the incident
with Canadian authorities and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a
unit of United Technologies Corp.
Bombardier's shares closed down 2.4 percent at C$3.69 on the
Toronto Stock Exchange.
Pratt spokeswoman Sara Banda said it was too early to say
whether the incident could affect the broader development
program for the engine, known as a geared turbofan (GTF), which
offers better fuel efficiency than previous models.
But she said Pratt still expects to meet or exceed all its
commitments related to the GTF program.
A similar Pratt engine will power the rival Airbus
A320neo, but the risk of the CSeries test failure affecting the
Airbus timetable is remote, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace
analyst at the Teal Group, in Fairfax, Virginia.
"Given all the testing the engine has been through, the
incident is likely to be pretty minor," Aboulafia said.
"But given all the headaches of the CSeries, this is another
headache Bombardier doesn't need."
Bombardier is spending billions to develop the CSeries,
which will compete with Boeing Co's 737 MAX as well as
the Airbus A320neo. It unveiled the plane more than a year ago
to fanfare and high expectations, but has struggled with delays
and slow sales.
It was not immediately clear whether the engine incident
sprang from a production problem that would be simple to fix, or
a more serious design flaw that could require more time and
money to repair.
By being first to market with a new, fuel-efficient
narrow-body plane, Bombardier had hoped to capture significant
orders, but its advantage is shrinking with the CSeries delays.
The plane's first flight last September was more than nine
months behind schedule. In January, Bombardier pushed out the
date of the CSeries' entry into service to the second half of
2015, the same target Airbus has for the A320neo. The CSeries
was originally due in service at the end of 2013.
While serious problems are rare, engines occasionally fail
during testing. Pratt had to redesign a component of a similar
engine last year, when tests revealed distress in the hot core.
Transport Canada certified the CSeries engine in February
2013 and Pratt has completed more than 9,000 hours of testing in
the GTF program, more than half of it on the version of the
engine designed to power the CSeries, Banda said.
(Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Lewis Krauskopf
New York.; Editing by Alwyn Scott, Jeffrey Hodgson, Steve
Orlofsky and Peter Galloway)