- Category: Economic
- Published Friday, December 18, 2015
- CTV News
MIRABEL, Que. -- After delays and cost overruns, Bombardier's US$5.4-billion CSeries passenger jet has been given the green light to enter into commercial service.
The largest plane built by the Montreal-based manufacturer was formally certified on Friday by Transport Canada.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the go-ahead during a news conference at the aircraft's assembly facility in Mirabel, north of Montreal.
"This is a big day," Garneau said. "Major projects like the Cseries of Bombardier don't happen very often."
The 110- to 125-seat CS100 has undergone more than 1,000 test flights since its first flight on Sept. 16, 2013.
A series of challenges prompted Bombardier to delay the plane's entry in service by Lufthansa-owned Swiss Airlines until the first half of 2016.
The larger CS300 with up to 160 seats is scheduled to be certified and be delivered to launch customer AirBaltic in September.
Bombardier has high hopes that the plane's use of lightweight materials and fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney engines will make it a long-term winner, especially in growing markets like China.
But the plane has been stuck at just 243 firm orders for more than a year, while there are very few delivery slots available in the initial years as it ramps up production to more than 100 planes a year in 2020.
Certification comes more than a decade after Bombardier unveiled plans to build a plane that would compete directly with the smaller airliners from Boeing and Airbus.
Bombardier's efforts to upscale from its popular regional jets has been supported by governments in Canada, Quebec and Britain which committed hundreds of millions of dollars in financial support.
However, the high costs of introducing a new plane prompted Bombardier in October to announce a US$3.2 billion writedown on the CSeries. That was the same day the Quebec government committed another US$1 billion for a 49.5 per cent stake in the CSeries.
Ottawa is reviewing a request for matching dollars.
Bombardier has said the government funding is reassuring potential customers who may have been concerned about Bombardier's financial ability to bring the jetliner to market.