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Bombardier CSeries gearing up for its first flight: Beaudoin

Keywords: Tags  Bombardier, Pierre Beaudoin, CSeries, composites, aluminum-lithium alloys, titanium, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — The first flight of Bombardier Inc.’s new CSeries plane will take place "in the coming weeks" amid continuing questions about the new airliner’s progress, the Canadian train and aircraft builder said.

Integration of the auxiliary power unit and engines on the first-flight test vehicle are "running smoothly," and the latest software upgrades are being implemented successfully, Pierre Beaudoin, president and chief executive officer of the Montreal-based company, said.

"However, these highly technical steps are taking more time than initially anticipated," he said during a quarterly earnings call, during which he was pressed by securities analysts about the program’s progress.

The CSeries is seen as a significant consumer of advanced materials. Outsiders estimate composites comprise more than 45 percent of the plane, aluminum-lithium alloys more than 30 percent and titanium about 7 percent, the latter representing an estimated buy weight of around 20,000 pounds per aircraft.

A Bombardier spokeswoman couldn’t be reached for comment.

While the flight test program will take 12 months, Beaudoin said there is "nothing changed" about the plane’s planned entry into service in mid- to late 2014 despite investor speculation that this could be pushed back. He agreed that while Bombardier faces a "busy" flight test schedule, it nevertheless is "doable."

Bombardier has claimed the CSeries will burn 15 percent less fuel and cost 20 percent less than its competitors to operate, according to reports. It is considered Bombardier’s entry into the market for larger commercial aircraft of up to 160 passengers, dominated by Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS.

Bombardier Transportation has also won contracts for new rolling stock and to supply spares from Britain’s Southern Railway that are valued at about $274 million, the company said. The contracts, for 116 new cars to be built at Bombardier’s Derby, England, facility, include an option for 140 additional cars, which would bring the total number of vehicles to 256 and the ultimate value of the order to $586 million.

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