The largest order of business jets in the firm’s history will help to secure the future of 5,400 Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland, along with scores of supply companies.
The Canadian company has signed a contract to supply 142 of its Global business jets with Swiss-based jet hire company VistaJet in a deal which could be worth £4.8bn.
The Bombardier plant in Belfast designs and manufactures a number of components for the jet, including part of the fuselage, engine covers and parts of the wings.
There are around 5,400 employed at the site on full-time and contract basis, 900 of whom are involved in making parts of the luxury business jet used by some of the world’s most influential and richest business people.
It is understood that the new jets will be deployed to markets in Russia, China and the Middle East.
“We in Belfast play a major role in the business jet sector — an important market which Bombardier leads,” the company said in a statement. “This order — the largest ever business aircraft sale in Bombardier’s history — will help to sustain jobs and secure our long-term future, in addition to benefiting our local supply chain.”
The deal is made up of firm orders for 56 of the Global range of jets, worth around $3.1bn (£1.9bn), and options on a further 86. It eclipses the previous contract between Bombardier and Netjets, owned by US investor Warren Buffet, for $7.3bn (£4.5bn).
The jets themselves are aimed at business people who want to fly around the world in luxurious surroundings and the single biggest order in Bombardier’s history is testament to the fact that demand from such high-end customers is on the up.
“Our customers need to fly point-to-point across the globe, and in many instances at short notice,” VistaJet’s founder and chairman Thomas Folhr said. “Whether it’s a direct flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai, from London to Luanda or from Kinshasa to Ulan Bator, we are seamlessly connecting our customers to every corner of the world in unrivalled levels of style and safety.
“Such customer success allows us to place this historic order and will enable us to base even more brand new aircraft in these dynamic growth markets.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the news.
“Bombardier has had a presence in Belfast since 1989 and as our largest private sector employer it is pivotal to the local economy,” she said. “This order, the largest ever business aircraft order in Bombardier’s history, will help to sustain jobs and secure its long-term future, in addition to benefiting the local aerospace supply chain.”
VistaJet’s clients are high-fliers looking for luxury
By Clare Weir
With an existing fleet of Bombardier aircraft based across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and West Africa, it was natural that VistaJet would return to the firm for a new order, sparking a Belfast plane-making bonanza.
The firm has offices in London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and Salzburg. VistaJets boasts of a client-focused “revolutionary business model” after investing in the largest privately-owned fleet of aircraft outside the Americas.
Founder, chairman and sole shareholder, Swissman Thomas Flohr, established VistaJet in 2004 after spending a considerable amount of time travelling on chartered private jets. He says he found the lifestyle that private jet clientele were accustomed to in their daily lives “was not being translated into the private jet experience” and
went about “creating a lifestyle, not just a product”.
VistaJet claims to be the world’s leading luxury private aviation company and has now entered the second phase of its strategic expansion across BRINC (Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria and China) countries and other developing markets.
The firm is aiming to double the size of its business by 2015. David Raymond (right), deputy chair of the Northern Ireland ADS group, which champions aerospace, defence and security firms here, said that the deal will help secure and build the developing local aerospace hub and the very many high-calibre jobs supported by a global industry.
“The international aerospace industry is continuing to grow with all the major aircraft manufacturers under pressure to expand production capacity and produce more aircraft,” he said.
“They need aircraft which are designed to be easier to build, cheaper to operate, able to benefit from incorporating new materials and manufacturing methods, and delivering the highest quality of experience for passengers, along with value for money for the airlines operating them.
“Northern Ireland, with its excellent capability and reputation in design engineering, manufacturing, research and development, and educational strength is well-placed to benefit from the major opportunities fast developing.
“In July at Farnborough, Sigma Aeronautics signed a memorandum of understanding with Spirit Aerosystems to work with them to help build their supply chain here in Northern Ireland.
“Spirit, a US corporation with a $5bn (£3bn) turnover, is a major supplier to Boeing and Airbus. This is a first step in increasing the Northern Ireland presence in the international aerospace market and we are certain it will be the precursor to more good news in future.”
C-Series set for take-off in 2013 after deadline setback
By Clare Weir
The maiden flight of the Bombardier C-Series jetliner — the wings of which are made in Belfast — is set to take off in early 2013 despite initial fears of a delay until next summer.
Announcing the delay from a previous goal of late 2012, the firm had blamed supplier delays for disruption to its biggest plane project.
But Chet Fuller, senior vice-president for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said the production plant in Northern Ireland responsible for the plane's carbon-composite wings was not to blame for the delay.
“There is some schedule pressure there on the wing. A while back there was some schedule pressure in other areas,” he said. “At this point of any programme, something is always competing for first place on delays. Right now, it is one particular supplier who is solidly in the lead.”
So far, the C-Series delays are nowhere near as serious as for the Airbus military airlifter or Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which was three years behind schedule.