Belfast plant spreads its wings on global stage
The first Bombardier CSeries aircraft – the wings of which were invented, designed and built in Belfast – will take to the skies on schedule this summer after being unveiled at a special ceremony in Canada.
The French-Canadian company said that the development of the aircraft is making excellent progress ahead of the first flight by the end of June.
The CSeries programme represented a £520m investment in Belfast – the largest ever inward investment by a private company in Northern Ireland.
The company, the largest manufacturer in the province, provides 10% of Northern Ireland's manufacturing exports and has invested more than £2.1bn here since 1989.
Engine makers Pratt & Whitney recently achieved certification of its first PW1500G engine that will power the CSeries aircraft, and the Bombardier company is now focusing on the building of flight test vehicles.
Four were shown off in Canada on Thursday while work is ongoing on a fifth. Journalists in Belfast were able to watch the first CSeries flight test vehicle (FTV1) being presented to the world via a live web link-up to Bombardier Aerospace factory in Quebec. Bombardier also confirmed that it has introduced an extra capacity seating option that will increase the CS300 aircraft seating to up to 160 passengers.
As of December 31, 2012, Bombardier had booked orders and commitments for 382 CSeries aircraft.
The new aircraft was launched in July 2008 and the first CS100s are expected to enter commercial use in 2014, with the CS300 to follow.
Customers who have signed up to the new aircraft include Lufthansa and Korean Air, with the most recent customer Ilyushin Finance Co.
It was revealed on Wednesday that Ilyushin intends to sign up for even more CSeries jets.
Gavin Campbell, director of design engineering and technology with Bombardier, said that at present there are around 850 people working in the factory which builds the wings, a mixture of designers, engineers and production operatives, adding that the mix of staff will change as production ramps up.
"Bombardier Belfast is a key part of Bombardier's entire family of aircraft," he said.
"If you come to Belfast you will see components of all our aircraft. We have 5,000 staff, including 1,000 engineers, and as well as the 800 jobs involved in the CSeries wing production we support thousands more in the supply chain in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and around the world.
"We have 40 years of experience, starting with metal, glass and carbon, we have a good foundation and now we are working with the highest technology available on the market.
"To us the CSeries is the best possible use of the technology available to us."
Russell McFadden, vice-president of wing manufacturing and assembly, added the eventual aim is that the company will produce 120 CSeries aircraft a year.