Bombardier boost as new Global 7000 set for test flight
Bombardier will see its luxury business jet, which was part-made in Belfast, take to the skies for its first test flight next month. The flight of the new Global 7000 ultra long-range plane will take place in Toronto in a much-needed boost after delays of two years.
Bombardier did not confirm reports that the flight would take place next month, but said it was on track to fly the jet this year.
The firm's Belfast workforce, which totals some 5,000 people, designs and makes composite parts and other components for the Global 7000.
The company has faced a series of major concerns over the past year, partly due to a huge overrun in its CSeries passenger jet programme.
It announced it was cutting 1,080 jobs in Northern Ireland over the next two years.
Last month it announced that "serious concerns" meant it was likely to rein in production of its flagship passenger jets in Belfast after it was revealed the plane-maker would deliver just half the number of planned CSeries aircraft this year. The wings and part of the fuselage are made in Belfast.
But the manufacturer has now said it will deliver only seven aircraft this year, instead of 15, due to delays with engine-maker Pratt & Whitney.
Former top Bombardier official Martin J Craigs said: "You can't take it as anything, but a concern."
This year, Bombardier signed a deal with Air Canada to sell it up to 75 of its CSeries passenger jets, while US firm Delta also ordered 75.
In August, the company said it was bringing forward 95 planned redundancies. More than 700 staff are due to go this year, with some 1,080 planned by 2017.
The Quebec government now has a 49.5% share in the CSeries project, which it got in return for a $1bn bailout. Bombardier is also negotiating a bailout from the Canadian government.
During the high-profile Iata (International Air Transport Association) AGM in Dublin this summer, British Airways boss Willie Walsh said he was having discussions with Bombardier boss Alain Bellemere about buying CSeries passenger jets.
Last month, another customer, Swiss Air, said that it was "satisfied" with the performance of the plane-maker's flagship passenger jets, a month after they went into service.
The much-anticipated CSeries aircraft made its debut back in July - with its first customer Swiss Air flying a CS100 from Zurich to Paris.
A second CS100 also began scheduled flights in August, again linking Zurich to Paris.
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed Bombardier was moving some of its operations away from Northern Ireland to cheaper countries, including Mexico and Morocco.
The plane-maker confirmed the transfer of "certain activities" it said it was "unable to undertake competitively" here.
It added while it had undertaken major investment in Northern Ireland over the years and would "continue to focus on high-value, high-complexity production", it must balance its costs with sites in Mexico and Morocco to "help to optimise our manufacturing footprint and ensure the future success of our business overall".
One Bombardier worker said: "I challenge our unions, who are frightened to rock the boat."
The company earlier this year asked staff to accept a pay freeze amid a "serious financial crisis" at the plane-maker.
There have been calls for Stormont to bring in a dedicated manufacturing strategy to tackle job losses.
However, the workforce in Belfast is taking on a bigger role with the CSeries.
Last year Northern Ireland employees produced between 15 and 20 fuselage mid-sections for the aircraft as work was transferred from the company's manufacturing partner in China to its east Belfast plant.