(Reuters) - Bombardier took another step toward breaking the Boeing-Airbus lock on the narrowbody jet market Monday, saying it has begun assembling its rival CSeries jet, and that it is still on course to start flight-testing by year-end, despite concerns that timetable could slip.
Fuselage and other parts for the first CSeries plane, which will include assemblies sourced from the UK, China and elsewhere, are being joined at the company's factory in Mirabel, Quebec, the Canadian aerospace company said.
"We're aiming for first flight this year," said Marc Duchesne, a spokesman for Bombardier. "The market is expecting us to start flying as soon as that."
The plane, with 100 to 149 seats, would challenge the top-selling, single-aisle Boeing and Airbus planes in the 737 and A320 families. It also will use carbon-fibre composite technology in the wings.
Boeing, based in Chicago, and Airbus, owned by aerospace group EADS, are locked in a global contest for market share, and in a sign of fierce competition, have halved prices to bolster orders of revamped, more efficient models of their best-selling narrowbody jets.
Both companies forecast that global demand for jets will exceed $4 trillion over the next 20 years.
Bombardier launched the CSeries program in 2008 and expects to deliver the first plane to an undisclosed customer late next year. Swiss International Air Lines AG, a unit of Lufthansa Group, was the first airline to order the CSeries, Bombardier said.
The delivery timeline is "compressed," Duchesne said. It also is faster than for Boeing's widebody 787, which was launched with customer All Nippon Airways in April 2004. The first 787 was slated to enter service in 2008, but actually entered service in 2011.
Bombardier said it has received 352 orders, including 138 firm orders, for the CSeries, which it says promises 20 percent savings in fuel consumption compared with current models of competing aircraft. It will be equipped with engines made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies. List prices for the CSeries jet are US$58 million for the CS100 and US$66 million for the CS300 version. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Bernard Orr)