Bombardier gets £1bn orders at Farnborough Air Show
Northern Ireland's growing aerospace industry has been lifted at the Farnborough Air Show with orders worth almost £1bn for planes part-made in Belfast.
The major trade expo also saw the opening to Northern Ireland companies of a funding scheme for smaller firms in the sector.
The new Bombardier CSeries – the wings of which are made in Belfast – has attracted orders from five customers since the weekend.
However, the jet itself has been absent from the flagship event after an engine failure on a test plane in May,
China's Zhejiang Loong Airlines said on Monday that it has signed a letter of intent to buy 20 of the smaller CS100 jets. Jordan's Petra Airlines also announced a letter of intent to acquire up to four CS100 and CS300 planes while UK-based Falko Regional Aircraft said that it intends to purchase up to 24 CS100s.
Abu Dhabi-based Falcon Aviation Services has placed a firm order for two CS300s while Air Baltic has been named as a previously undisclosed customer that converted three options to firm orders in February.
The deals are worth £1bn in total – but if all the options are exercised in the future, they could be worth over £2bn.
A spokeswoman from Bombardier Aerospace said that workers in Belfast were strengthening the UK's goal of being the world leader in aircraft wing design and manufacture.
"In an industry first, the wing production also takes place under one roof – right from receipt of the raw carbon fibre materials, through to delivery of a complete wing," she said.
"The CSeries aircraft wing programme will employ over 800 people when we are at full production in a few years' time, and is further benefiting the Northern Ireland economy through the involvement of local companies".
There are just over 200 firm orders for the new jet and just under 300 commitments, including options, conditional purchase agreements and letters of intent.
The firm said that it wants to secure 300 firm orders by the time the CSeries enters into service, which is now expected to be in late of 2015 after a series of delays.
The manufacture of the wings supports a further 2,000 jobs in the supply chain.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK's export credit agency, will participate in a "programme of support" for the CSeries.
UKEF will provide guarantees to its equivalent in Canada, where Bombardier is headquartered, for around 20% of the value of loans extended by Export Development Canada to overseas buyers of the aircraft.
And in another development, airline Flybe has signed an agreement with to make Bombardier's Q400 propeller plane – components of which are also made in Belfast – its aircraft of choice in its UK-branded business.
As well as Bombardier, other companies like B/E Aerospace have substantial operations in Northern Ireland and smaller companies in the supply chain make parts for Boeing and Airbus.
Denroy Plastics in Bangor makes parts for the Typhoon Eurofighter jet while Marlborough Engineering, based in east Belfast, has been making parts – some up to 20 metres in length – to test the wings and spars for the new KC-390 military aircraft being developed by Brazilian firm Embraer.
Research indicates that the UK aerospace sector is growing 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
ADS Group's Aerospace Industry Outlook showed that the current aircraft order backlog has hit a new high and is estimated to be worth £150bn to the UK.
The sector is directly employing over 100,000 people.