Bloomberg News

Bombardier CSeries Awaits Return to Sky After Ground Test

June 11, 2014

Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B) restarted ground tests on its new CSeries jet following last month’s failure of a Pratt & Whitney engine and predicted resumption of flight trials “in the coming weeks.”

The CSeries won’t appear at next month’s Farnborough International Airshow in England, Bombardier said. The show is the industry’s largest showcase for aircraft introductions in 2014, and Bombardier said it will seek “other opportunities” to show off the planemaker’s biggest-ever jet.

“We are working to get back on track and today have resumed ground engine runs,” CSeries Program Vice President Robert Dewar said yesterday in a statement without elaborating on the cause of the May 29 blowout. He said Bombardier and Pratt implemented “control measures to avoid such events.”

The ground trials are one step toward returning the CSeries to a test-program timeline already beset by delays. Montreal-based Bombardier is working toward a commercial debut in 2015’s second half for the model intended to challenge the Boeing Co. (BA:US) and Airbus Group NV (AIR) single-aisle planes that make up the bulk of the global airline fleet.

Bombardier and Pratt have been investigating the engine failure, in which one of two geared turbofan engines on a CSeries flight-test jet caught fire during a routine ground trial at the planemaker’s assembly plant in Mirabel, Quebec. Bombardier parked its other three CSeries test planes and sent the damaged engine to a Pratt facility in Connecticut.

‘Design Modification’

A Pratt review “found that a slight design modification would allow for continued ground testing,” a spokesman, Ray Hernandez, said by e-mail. “We have developed a plan with Bombardier to resume flight testing in the near future.”

The engine maker is “not going into technical details of the issue at this time,” Hernandez said. Marc Duchesne, a Bombardier spokesman, also declined to comment on the cause.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is “still gathering information” on the engine failure and hasn’t decided whether to open an official investigation, Chris Krepski, an agency spokesman, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Bombardier’s Class B shares rose 1.6 percent to C$3.85 at the close in Toronto before the announcement about the ground tests. Pratt parent United Technologies Corp. (UTX:US) fell 0.8 percent to $119.13 in New York.

Program Relevance?

The CSeries’ engine failure dealt another blow to a jet already suffering from rising costs and multiple delivery delays. Howard Rubel, a New York-based analyst at Jefferies LLC, said in a June 2 note that the incident raised “further questions about the relevance of the aircraft.”

Major airlines have been slow to embrace the CSeries. Air Canada, which had been evaluating the aircraft as a possible replacement for 25 Embraer SA planes, said in May it wouldn’t order any CSeries jets.

The CSeries is designed to seat 108 to 160 people. Outfitted with Pratt’s newest engine technology, the CSeries will produce less noise and cost about 15 percent less to operate than comparable planes. The jet is scheduled to be the first to use Pratt’s fuel-efficient geared turbofan engine.

With about 20 years of research and development, Pratt has placed a big bet on its geared turbofan engine design, which uses a gearbox to reduce weight and improve efficiency. The company has sold more than 5,500 of the engines, a competitor to models made by companies including General Electric Co. (GE:US) Pratt hopes to adapt the technology for use on wide-body jets.

Gears Cleared

United Technologies Chief Financial Officer Gregory Hayes said at an industry conference last week that a preliminary analysis indicated the failure wasn’t in the gear system. The failure occurred in the engine’s low-pressure turbine, a UBS Securities LLC analyst, Darryl Genovesi, wrote in a June 6 note, citing meetings with Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Pierre Beaudoin.

Bombardier plans to put the smaller of its two CSeries models, the CS100, into service in the second half of next year, with the larger CS300 to follow six months later. Bombardier said it has completed about 330 hours of test flights on the CS100 and it expects more than 2,000 additional hours.

Bombardier is about two-thirds of the way to its goal of 300 orders by the time the plane enters service. The company expects the jet to generate as much as $8 billion in annual sales later this decade.

Engine blowouts during testing have occurred before. In 2010, a Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc Trent 1000 engine failed during trials for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Two years later, a GE engine spewed debris during Dreamliner taxi tests in Charleston, South Carolina.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Clough in New York at rclough9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net John Lear


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