Canada's Bombardier launches its biggest jetliner yet

Bombardier says the cost of its CSeries aircraft program has increased by $2 billion to $5.4 billion (AFP Photo/Clement Sabourin) (AFP/File)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canadian manufacturer Bombardier's largest ever passenger jet, the CS300, made its maiden test flight Friday after billions of dollars spent on development and long delays.

The debut flight from Montreal's Mirabel airport ran almost five hours, having been delayed a day by bad weather.

The aircraft, which can seat up to 160, is the second in Bombardier's CSeries medium-sized jetliner program, marking its entry into market space dominated by Airbus and Boeing.

The smaller 110-125 seat CS100 first flew in September 2013, after several delays and Can$2 billion (US$1.6 billion) in cost overruns, which have depressed the company's share value and led to the departure of its chief executive on February 12.

So far, Bombardier has received 243 firm orders for the two models, of which two-thirds are for the bigger CS300.

The company estimates demand for medium-sized passenger aircraft will reach 7,000 over the next 20 years, and it is hoping to grab 50 percent of that market with its lightweight, fuel-saving jets.

Early customers include Saudi Arabia's Al Qahtani Aviation Company, Air Baltic, Lufthansa and Republic Airways.

The first CSeries are expected to be delivered later this year.