Bombardier's new passenger jet has completed its maiden test flight, marking a major milestone in its development.
The Canadian plane-maker is better known for its smaller business jets, but it says that huge opportunity in the 100 to 150-seat jet market drove it to go bigger.
Nearly 7,000 planes in that segment will be delivered in the next 20 years, Bombardier forecasts.
It wants to build half of them.
In an interview at the Paris Air Show in June, Bombardier media relations representative Marc Duchesene told Business Insider, "We are aiming at 50% of that market share."
The CSeries will have an advantage over comparably sized competitors, he argued, because it is designed from the ground up to be that size, not scaled up or shrunk down.
In contrast, the Airbus A319, which usually seats 124 passengers, is spun off from the larger A320. Boeing's 737-700 is a shrunken version of the 737. Embraer's E-190 is a bigger version of the E-170.
Bombardier also says the CSeries will be 20% more efficient that its competition, a huge plus for cash-strapped airlines facing high fuel costs. "Fuel efficiency is a key asset" of the CSeries, Duchesne said.
And it's quiet, which makes it well suited for flying into urban airports. Jon Ostrower at the Wall Street Journal was at the launch, and confirmed Bombardier's claims:
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) September 16, 2013
Yet it's hard to believe that a new entrant can take so much market share, especially when its compeitiion is so established. The 737 and A320 are among the most successful jets ever made, and Boeing and Airbus have shown over the past decades that they can deliver the goods. Their construction and maintenance networks are in place and proven.
In Paris, Duchesne brushed off the dominance of the two giants. "It's okay to be established, but we definitely will be established as well."
But the numbers show that airlines aren't flocking to buy the new plane. Between January and August 2013, Airbus delivered more than 300 A320 family jets in 2013. It took orders for nearly 800 more. As of June, Bombardier had secured orders and committments for around 400 CSeries jets, total.
Karl Moore of McGill University told the Canadian Press the lack of orders is worrying, but that the first flight should boost customer confidence. Representatives for Lufthansa and Porter Airlines were at Bombardier's Mirabel facility for the maiden test flight.
Bombardier currently plans to get the CSeries into service next year, but the plane's development has suffered from the delays that plague many new planes. In late June, Bombardier promised the maiden flight by the end of that month, making today's take off more than two months late.
But Bombardier is firm in its confidence and the 50% goal. "It's a big target. We're very optimistic and positive about it," Duchesne said. "We believe we have the right aircraft for this segment."
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