Bombardier CSeries Flies, but Questions Remain

Inaugural flight launches year-long test program.

Bombardier CSeries

Bombardier CSeries

Bombardier's CSeries regional jetliner made its long-awaited first flight on Monday in Montreal, kicking off a development program that has been marred by questions about slow sales and rising costs.

The cost estimate for the all-composite jet, which will seat as many as 160 passengers, is $3.4 billion, according to Bombardier. The Canadian manufacturer has 177 orders for the CSeries, well short of the 300 it hoped to have in hand by this stage.

The CS100 now begins an ambitious, 12-month certification program involving five test airplanes. It will culminate with entry into commercial service, probably late next year, against stiff competition from Boeing, Airbus and Embraer.

The inaugural flight proceeded as scheduled as the twinjet climbed to an altitude of 12,500 feet and a speed of 230 knots, Bombardier said. "It flew very well," said Bombardier chief test pilot Chuck Ellis. "It's a very, very nice airplane."

There will be multiple versions of the CSeries. The CS100 will seat 110 in a typical configuration, while the larger CS300 seats 135 and can be modified to seat up to 160. The airplane will compete with the Airbus A319neo, Boeing 737 MAX and Embraer E-Jet Series.

The first flight was delayed three times over the last nine months as costs rose sharply due to a variety of factors. Barring any further delays, Bombardier says it believes the CSeries can now remain on schedule and budget to eventually become a runaway sales success.

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