MONTREAL – Bombardier sees nothing major that could prevent the CSeries from making its maiden flight later this month.
“We don’t have any major risks left in the program, to be honest,” said Robert Dewar, CSeries vice-president and general manager.
Dewar said a few final pre-flight tests are standing in the way before the commercial jet makes its 90-minute inaugural flight.
The plane was handed to the flight test centre this week and is in the middle of several days of ground vibration testing.
It will then undergo a simulated flight and taxiing before it gets a Transport Canada permit to fly.
The green and white plane will take off after a Global 5000 chase plane passes along the flight route.
The business jet will then fly in parallel to the CSeries to convey any observations to its two pilots and flight engineer.
The plane is made of composite materials and its Pratt & Whitney engine promises to be quieter and help it to deliver fuel cost savings for customers.
Paparazzi have staked out Mirabel airport hoping to get a glimpse of tests, but Dewar says the first flight will take place after the Paris Air Show, which begins June 17.
The actual date will be partially determined by favourable weather conditions, including high cloud cover, little wind, no rain and good visibility.
“You want to put everything on your side,” he said, adding that visual flight rules are needed so it doesn’t rely on navigation systems.
The CSeries performance will be tracked by onboard computers, nearly a dozen cameras mounted inside and outside the aircraft and curious onlookers.
Dewar said the flight will demonstrate the plane’s capabilities.
Further flight tests will follow, sometimes with a break of a few days to configure the plane to add experimental equipment specific to that test.
As for new orders, Dewar said he’s confident in Bombardier’s sales predictions but won’t indicate if any will be announced at the premier aerospace event.
“We have a bunch of stuff in the pipeline, but we really want to make sure that we get the inherent value of the product,” he said from the Mirabel testing centre.
The smaller version of the plane is expected to enter into service in about a year. Deliveries of the larger CS300 are expected to begin by December 2014.
Bombardier expects has received commitments for 388 110- to 160-seat CSeries jets, including 177 firm orders.
Anticipation about the CSeries sent Bombardier shares to hit a new 52-week high Friday.
The Montreal-based company’s shares hit $4.93, before closing one cent off that threshold on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets says the fate of Bombardier’s shares in the near-term is closely aligned with the aircraft.
Shares have increased about 30 per cent over the last 12 months.
“While a post-air show first flight is unfortunate, it does put added pressure on the Bombardier sales team as a Paris appearance is expected to provide a nice order boost,” he wrote in a report.
Spracklin anticipates Bombardier will likely announce two or more purchase agreements for at least 20 aircraft at the biennial event.
Larger rivals Airbus and Boeing are expected to rack up orders for their re-engined narrowbody planes. But he said the key for Bombardier is to maintain its lead against the A319NEO, 737-7MAX or Embraer E190/195 planes that have similar seat capacity to the CSeries.
“A large order for more than 20 CSeries from a Chinese Airline, which we believe could come from current C919 customers China Southern or Hainan Airlines, would also act as a significant catalyst.”
Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said a large order is not beyond all possibilities.
Britain’s EasyJet has mused that the CSeries is being considered as the low-cost carrier plans a large fleet replacement.
The high density CS300 could be an ideal candidate to replace 154 A319 planes with 156 seats.
Doerksen said EasyJet may not be ready to announce until later this year.
“If Bombardier were to win a piece of this order we think it would be very significant as it would be a large order from a recognizable airline.”
Bombardier could use the air show to unveil the identity of a customer that placed an order for 20 CS100 aircraft. Speculation centres around Odyssey International, which plans to operate business seating between London City Centre and New York.
Bombardier said Tuesday that large Russian leasing company Ilyushin Finance co. has firmed up its conditional order for up to 42 CSeries jets. It includes a firm order for 32 CS300 aircraft and options for 10 additional jets.
It also identified Bahrain’s Gulf Air as the customer for 10 CSeries CS100 aircraft and six options.