One of Northern Ireland's largest employers made a £50m profit last year as robust demand for its jets helped weather the global economic storm.
Short Brothers Plc, now owned by Canadian aircraft manufacturing giant Bombardier, saw pre-tax profits fall by around £6m compared to 2011 but outperformed the group as a whole which reported a 93% drop in profits last month due to restructering costs at its train division.
The company said the Belfast plant, which is Northern Ireland's third largest employer with over 5,000 permanent staff and another 650 contractors, will continue to benefit from a strong pipeline of orders and on-going investment in new aircraft programmes.
In particular, growing global demand for private business jets, in which Bombardier is said to be the world's biggest manufacturer, bodes well for Belfast as many of the parts for these aircraft – including the fuselage and engine covers – are made here.
In addition, orders remain relatively strong for the new CSeries aircraft which is set to take off on its first test flight this summer.
The wings of the CSeries will be made a new specialist manufacturing facility which has just been completed in Belfast at a cost of £520m. Sir George Quigley, chairman of Short Brothers, said much of the technology which will be used in the plant has been developed here.
"The development of the advanced composite wings for the CSeries aircraft and the construction of the new factory became a reality when we delivered the wings for both the static test airframe and the first flight test aircraft. The CSeries aircraft wings are the largest and most complex composite structures manufactured and assembled in the UK using a unique resin transfer infusion technology developed by Bombardier in Belfast," he said.
Meanwhile, the company is in the process of developing the former Nortel siteon the Doagh Road in Newtownabbey. There it will consolidate both its customer services division, which repairs engine "nacelles" – covers – and other structures and its engine nacelle manufacturing operation.
Sir George said the repair facility is proving busy. "During the year, our repairs business grew steadily, and we were delighted to be selected to research, design, manufacture and provide aircraft certification and after-market support for the complete engine nacelle, including thrust reverser, for the new Irkut MC-21 family of aircraft," he said.