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Northern Ireland plane seat maker set to add 50 new jobs as group expands operations

By John Mulgrew

Published 21/10/2016

From left, First Minister Arlene Foster, general manager Neil Cairns and director of furnishing and fittings Francis Kelly during a tour of B/E Aerospace
From left, First Minister Arlene Foster, general manager Neil Cairns and director of furnishing and fittings Francis Kelly during a tour of B/E Aerospace

A Northern Ireland aerospace firm is creating at least 50 jobs as part of its latest expansion, it can be revealed.

B/E Aerospace, which is based in Kilkeel, is hosting a recruitment drive in Belfast later this month.

The firm said it was looking for more than 50 new staff across a range of areas.

That includes engineers, quality control, finance, supply and operations.

Earlier this year, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that American Airlines - the biggest carrier in the US - will take delivery of new premium economy seats made by B/E Aerospace.

The company launches its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in August. B/E now employs around 800 staff.

While the exact seating plan for the new 787-9 is a closely guarded secret, its understood there will be 21 premium economy seats on every craft.

And with a total of 22 on order, B/E Aerospace would be making a total of 1,386 for American Airlines.

B/E Aerospace has also confirmed that it would be making seats for all three seating classes on American Airlines' new A350s.

David Thomas, the airline's regional director for the UK/Ireland, Middle East and Africa, told the Belfast Telegraph it started working with B/E Aerospace after problems with its former supplier, Zodiac Aerospace.

American Airlines is the first US airline to introduce a full premium economy product.

Mr Thomas had also said air passenger duty was "stifling" the travel industry in Northern Ireland.

B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel has made economy and business-class seating for airlines including British Airways, Emirates, Qatar, Air France, Qantas, Continental, United, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and more.

The new jobs fair will take place at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast on October 27.

Northern Ireland's aerospace sector has had mixed fortunes over the past year.

In June, Co Armagh plane seat manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating reported a 25% jump in its turnover to £64.9m. The Portadown company, which produces seats for Aer Lingus, Malaysia Airlines and more, had pre-tax profits of £13.7m, up nearly 30%.

Thompson Aero's category of machinery and transport equipment was the strongest performer - accounting for £2.3bn of exports, up 1.8%.

However, plane maker Bombardier 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, and bringing 700 of those losses forward this year.

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 be delivering just half the total number of planned CSeries passenger aircraft this year.

The wings and part of the fuselage of the jet are made in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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