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Bombardier opens window for CS300 first flight

Bombardier has set a three-day window next week to achieve first flight of the 135-160-seat CS300, the largest and most popular version of the CSeries family.

The first flight window between 26-28 February was set after Bombardier received an experimental flight permit from Transport Canada.

Long-term weather forecasts predict temperatures well below freezing and a slight chance of snow in the morning on 26 February, but little chance of precipitation the following two days.

“The CS300 aircraft will perform its maiden flight in the coming days,” says Rob Dewar, Bombarcier’s vice president leading the CSeries programme.

The flight test milestone for the CS300 is scheduled at a critical time in the life of the seven-year-old CSeries programme. Last week, Bombardier named Alain Bellemare as the new chief executive. The former United Technologies executive replaces Pierre Beaudoin, who replaces his father, Laurent, as chairman of the company.

The leadership shake-up came after investors have grown increasingly impatient with the pace of the development programme and Bombardier’s ability to sign up new customers.

Bombardier has booked 243 firm orders for the CSeries, of which three-fourths are fro the larger CS300.

Although CSeries sales pale in comparison to the bulging backlogs for Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies, Bombardier executives have always insisted their goal is to sign 300 firm orders by entry into service of the CS100, which is currently scheduled two years late in the second half of 2015.

Four CS100 flight test vehicles have amassed more than 1,000 flight hours and “test results are looking great”, says Dewar.

Bombardier has said before that the flight test programme includes 2,400 flight test hours, but Beaudoin said on an earnings call on 12 February that number should be considered a general guideline rather than a specific target.

Although the CS100 will be the first to enter service, the programme’s future in large part rides on the success of the CS300 model. It competes directly against the two smallest Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies still in production as commercial airliners – the A319 and 737-700.

After a second test version of the CS300 begins flying, Bombardier plans to deliver the first operational aircraft about six months after entry into service of the first CS100.

The first CS100 completed first flight on 16 September 2013.

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