By Dominic Gates The Seattle Times
The CSeries jet built by Canada’s Bombardier took off on its first flight shortly before 10 a.m. Eastern time Monday morning from Montreal’s Mirabel Airport and landed about 2 1/2 hours later.
The plane represents Bombardier’s years-long push to go beyond building smaller regional jets and to begin to challenge Boeing and Airbus with bigger jets.
It features new fuel-efficient Pratt &Whitney engines; a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite wing built in Belfast, Northern Ireland; and a metal fuselage built in Shenyang, China. Final assembly is in Montreal.
The engines and lightweight construction promise about 20 percent better fuel efficiency than today’s narrowbody jets.
The CSeries program was first launched in 2004, then suspended two years later for lack of orders. Relaunched in 2007, the program still has secured only 177 firm orders.
Last year, the first flight was pushed out by six months because of assembly problems at its suppliers. Earlier this year, the flight was scheduled for June, but was delayed again when systems and software upgrades didn’t come together in time.
The first version of the CSeries, the CS100 that took to the air Monday, is a 110-seat model. If all goes well in flight test, it’s scheduled to enter service toward the end of 2014 or early 2015.
With the second 130-seat CSeries model, planned to follow about a year later, Bombardier would move into the market segment of the smaller planes built by Boeing and Airbus.
That larger version, the CS300, will compete head-to-head against Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 and Airbus’s A319neo, which are similarly revamped with new fuel-efficient engines but are not scheduled to enter service until 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Although the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo families have sold extraordinarily well, neither company has sold many of those jets in the smallest size category.
So Bombardier’s major competition for this market may be neither Boeing nor Airbus, but Embraer of Brazil.
At the Paris Air Show in June, Embraer launched a new family of re-vamped regional jets, including 106-seat and 132-seat versions that are planned to enter service in 2018 and 2019.