Bombardier planes are winging their way to Iraq in £240m deal
Planes part-made in Belfast will be flying off to Iraq in the latest of a series of multi-million pound deals for planemaker Bombardier at Dubai Air Show.
Iraqi Airways, the national carrier of Iraq, has signed a letter of intent (LOI) to acquire five CS300 mainline jetliners in a deal worth around £240m.
The deal could increase to just under £1bn if options for a further 11 aircraft are converted into firm orders.
Iraqi Airways already operates six CRJ900 NextGen regional jets, parts of which are made in Northern Ireland.
The wings of the CSeries aircraft were invented, designed and are built in a facility in east Belfast.
The news came a day after Bombardier signed an agreement to repair parts of Oman Air's Airbus fleet at its premises in Newtownabbey.
There are currently 19 Northern Ireland companies participating at the Dubai Air Show.
The aerospace sector, which accounts for around 14% manufactured exports from Northern Ireland, employs over 8,000 people in Northern Ireland and generates annual revenues of close to £1bn, making it the eighth largest aerospace region in Europe.
Northern Ireland also has the largest single UK regional presence at the show, which is attended by 60,000 trade visitors and up to 1,500 international and regional media representatives.
Captain Saad Al-Khafaji, chief executive at Iraqi Airways, said that the firm has already used Bombardier CRJ900 NextGen aircraft to open routes and expand into new markets.
"We are pleased to be taking the next step by expanding and complementing our network operations with the addition of the CS300 aircraft," he said.
"Growing passenger demand in an increasingly competitive Middle East and European airline market has created a need for fuel-efficient, comfortable, technology advanced aircraft like the CSeries jetliners."
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that the deal was a tremendous endorsement for Northern Ireland's technological expertise and will bring significant economic benefits to Northern Ireland.
The minister met with representatives from defence company Thales, which has a base in Castlereagh, and US firm Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Aerojet Rocketdyne recently created a UK company, European Space Propulsion Ltd (ESP), and decided to base its European sales and engineering headquarters in Belfast.
ESP entered a partnership with Thales UK to provide a range of products and services to the European space industry.