Bombardier took another step toward breaking the Boeing-Airbus lock on the narrow-body jet market on Monday, as it began assembling its rival CSeries jet.
Bombardier said it is still on course to start flight-testing by year-end, despite concerns that timetable could slip.
Fuselage and other parts for the first CSeries plane, which will include parts sourced from the UK, China and elsewhere, are being assembled at the company's factory in Mirabel, Quebec, the Canadian aerospace company said.
"We're aiming for first flight this year," said Marc Duchesne, a spokesman for Bombardier. "The market is expecting us to start flying as soon as that."
The plane, with 100 to 149 seats, would challenge the top-selling, single-aisle Airbus and Boeing planes in the A320 and 737 families. It also will use carbon-composite technology in the wings.
Boeing and Airbus are locked in a global contest for market share, and in a sign of fierce competition, have halved prices to bolster orders of revamped, more efficient models of their best-selling narrow-body jets.
Both companies forecast global demand for jets will exceed USD$4 trillion over the next 20 years.
Bombardier launched the CSeries in 2008 and expects to deliver the first plane to an undisclosed customer late next year. Swiss International Air Lines, a unit of Lufthansa, was the first airline to order the CSeries, Bombardier said.
The delivery timeline is "compressed," Duchesne said. It also is faster than for Boeing's wide-body 787, which was launched with customer All Nippon Airways in April 2004. The first 787 was scheduled to enter service in 2008, but actually entered service in 2011.
Bombardier said it has received 352 orders, including 138 firm orders, for the CSeries, which it says promises 20 percent savings in fuel consumption compared with current models of competing aircraft.
It will be equipped with engines made by Pratt & Whitney. List prices for the CSeries jet are USD$58 million for the CS100 and USD$66 million for the CS300 version.