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The cockpit in a demonstration cabin of a Bombardier C Series.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

It's very close to showtime for Bombardier Inc.'s new 100-seat-plus C Series commercial jet.

The plane on which Bombardier has so much riding is set for its first test flight by the end of June.

It will be a landmark event for the company, barring any glitches that might require a second delay after last year's six-month holdup.

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Bombardier president and chief executive officer Pierre Beaudoin is betting big on the success of the C Series program and he's counting on a "mission accomplished" first flight to help enhance the plane's profile and boost less-than-impressive sales to date.

Expect the C Series to be front-and-centre as Bombardier unveils its first-quarter results on Thursday. Investors and analysts will be looking for reassurance that the much-anticipated aircraft is at last ready for its closeup.

Bombardier has become an "event/catalyst driven name" and "all eyes are turned towards the C Series first flight and to whether the company can get this plane off the ground before the end of June," CIBC World Markets analyst Kevin Chiang said in a recent research update.

"The success of [its] first flight will be used as a barometer to gauge the ability for Bombardier to execute on its C Series program."

Chris Murray of PI Financial Corp. said in a note that he's encouraged by a recent company update on the program, as well as a visit to the C Series cabin demonstrator. He has a $5.25 price target on the stock.

"We expect first flight remains a powerful catalyst for new orders, although [we] still expect it likely that some issues will arise during flight tests," he said.

He believes that regional- and business-jet maker Bombardier has developed a better platform for the 100- to 150-seat market. Bombardier is up against the formidable Boeing Co.-Airbus SAS near-duopoly, which hogs the space. Mr. Murray's 12-month target is also $5.25.

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National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen agrees that an update on Thursday is key. Confirmation that progress is being made on the C Series should be a major driver for the stock in the short term, he said in a research note, adding that "risk remains on the program.

"However, we see a higher stock price should first flight go as planned and as new orders for the plane are announced."

He is maintaining his "outperform" rating and target of $4.75.

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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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