Canada's all-new Bombardier CSeries passenger jet is being readied for a long-awaited maiden flight as early this weekend, possibly on Sunday, two industry sources said.
As with all such debuts, the exact timing remains unclear as crew carry out final tests and look for the weather needed to fly the first all-new airliner in its 100- to 149-seat category for decades.
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But the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said the delayed debut could be just days away barring further glitches.
"There is a high chance that you will have some flight news this weekend, most probably on Sunday (September 8)," one industry source said.
Given the stakes involved, it would not however be a surprise if the schedule slipped again by a few days, the sources said.
The debut, marking Canada's attempt to break into a market dominated by Airbus and Boeing , edged closer on Wednesday when pilots were due to start high-speed taxi trials.
But a Bombardier spokeswoman declined to comment on the timing of the maiden flight to be held in Mirabel, Quebec.
The first flight will be the culmination of a five-year, 3.4-billion development program for the CSeries.
Montreal-based Bombardier says the aircraft will be lighter and more efficient than other aircraft in the same category.
Airbus and Boeing have hit back by putting new engines on their best-selling narrowbody A320 and Boeing 737 models.
Bombardier has delayed the new aircraft's maiden flight three times. It said on Friday, however, it had received a flight test permit from industry regulator Transport Canada.
A source familiar with the situation said on Friday the CSeries was poised to fly before September 17, when the company is hosting an event to celebrate the maiden voyage.
Test pilots and other experts say the exact date of a debut depends on the results of the high-speed taxi tests, landing gear tests and emergency braking, as well as weather conditions.
The next few months of flight testing are seen as crucial, test not only for Bombardier but also its engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies .
The aircraft is powered by a brand-new generation of fuel-saving engines called Geared Turbofan (GTF), which have generated billions of dollars of other aircraft sales worldwide. Their performance could have implications across the industry.
Their debut on the CSeries will be closely watched by Airbus which has adopted similar Pratt engines for some of its best-selling A320 jets from 2015, as well as CFM International, Pratt's main competitor in the cut-throat engine market.
CFM, jointly owned by General Electric and France's Safran , has developed its own new model of engines called LEAP that will power future Chinese passenger jets as well as all Boeing narrowbody and some Airbus jets.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Solarina Ho; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)