UPDATE 1-Bombardier unveils high-stakes CSeries jetliner
MONTREAL, March 7 (Reuters) - Canada's Bombardier Inc took the wraps off its $3.4 billion challenge to industry leaders Boeing and Airbus on Thursday, announcing "excellent progress" on the development program for its largest plane to date.
Bombardier's single-aisle CSeries planes, with seating for between 100 and 160 passengers, represent the Montreal-based company's attempt to break into the lower end of a marketplace for 100-200 seat jets heavily defended by Boeing and Airbus.
China and Russia are also preparing to challenge the trans-Atlantic duopoly over the largest segment of the global jet market, valued at $2 trillion at list prices over the next 20 years.
"The CSeries aircraft program is making solid progress, having met a number of key milestones over the last few months," Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said in a statement.
"We are now focusing on three key areas that will lead to our safety-of-flight permit: static airframe testing, building of flight test vehicles and on-the-ground testing."
Bombardier unveiled the new aircraft at its facility at Meribel, outside Montreal, promising a transition to flight testing ahead of a first flight scheduled by the end of June.
At list prices, the 110-seat CS100 costs $62 million and the 130-seat CS300 costs $71 million. In contrast, the Boeing 737 MAX costs $82 million and Airbus' A319 NEO costs $88.8 million at list prices.
Bombardier on Thursday said it would also offer a CS300 with an option for up to 160 seats, either as an initial order or as a retrofitted plane.
"The CSeries aircraft is a game-changer in a changing economic environment, and following keen customer interest and market trends, we have enhanced the productivity of the CS300 aircraft further by offering the extra capacity seating option," Arcamone said.
The company said it has 148 firm orders for the aircraft.
That compares with 1,064 orders for Boeing's competing 737 MAX and more than 1,440 for Airbus' NEO family, though only a small fraction of those orders are for the smaller models that compete directly with the CSeries.