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C Series jet engine setback ‘relatively minor’

Bombardier's C-Series100 touches down after its maiden test flight September 16, 2013 in Mirabel, Que.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The engine failure that occurred last week on a C Series flight-test plane is not serious and details on its cause should be available later this week, one industry analyst says.

David Strauss, UBS's U.S. aerospace and defence analyst, said in a research note Tuesday that officials at United Technologies Corp. indicated in a meeting Monday that the incident is "relatively minor and not related to the gearbox."

United Technologies – parent of jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney Co. Inc. – expects to know the root cause of the problem by the end of this week, Mr. Strauss said.

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Concerns over how severe the problem is have weighed on Montreal-based Bombardier Inc.

RBC Dominion Securities analyst Walter Spracklin said in a note Monday that the "latest program setback aggravates the concerns we had with the slow flight-test program to date and calls into question development progress." He downgraded Bombardier shares to sector perform from outperform.

Other analysts, however, have said it is difficult to assess the impact on such key areas as entry into service – which Bombardier said is still set for the second half of 2015 – and sales campaigns until the cause of the incident is known.

Bombardier's ambitious $4.4-billion (U.S.) C Series new-jet program has been hit with several delays and cost overruns, and sales to airlines have been sluggish.

The engine in question – which uses innovative geared turbofan technology – is being inspected at head office in Hartford, Conn. Teams from both the engine maker and Bombardier are involved, a Bombardier spokesman said.

The fuel-efficient engine has proven reliable over three years of testing, Mr. Spracklin said.

Other observers say engine failures are not uncommon in the testing of new airplanes.

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Bombardier has suspended C Series test flights until the engine issue has been resolved, a situation that arises about six weeks before the crucial Farnborough Air Show in England.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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