Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Aviation firms hitting heights with new deals

In the hype to talk up our flourishing IT sector the old stalwarts of the Northern Ireland economy sometimes get forgotten.

There's no doubt the manufacturing sector has suffered badly as a result of the downturn in the global economy but by positioning itself as a hub of aeronautical talent, we've managed to weather the storm better than most regions.

This week's Farnborough Air Show has been a hive of activity, not just for the usual big guns of the aerospace industry but also for a number of smaller companies from these shores who are making waves in the sector.

This veritable speed dating event has seen a number of big deals go to our poster child of the skies Bombardier, which is continuing to rack up the orders for the C-Series plane and that's good news for us as the Belfast plant will make C-Series wings.

It's also taken a number of orders for the CRJ900 aircraft which has its fuselage, along with a number of other technical parts which are difficult to spell, made here. But it's not just Bombardier in the spotlight.

A plethora of companies which originally sprung up in Northern Ireland to serve the Canadian giant, whether for products of services, have been finding their way in the aviation world on their own two feet and have been showing their wares in Farnborough.

That there are 60-odd indigenous firms of this sort operating on these shores is impressive enough but the fact they're attracting the interest of aeroplane makers around the world is a reflection of their skill and talent and surely indicative of a prosperous future.

The aviation industry traditionally goes through many peaks and troughs and isn't getting it easy in these days of eurozone crisis, but it is benefiting from a drop in jet fuel prices which have followed crude oil lower.

Northern Ireland's aerospace gurus certainly look poised to take advantage of any upturn in the sector.

And, while we're on the subject of flying, arriving on the newly liveried British Airways Heathrow Shuttle into Belfast City Airport on Sunday evening the changing face of the Northern Ireland economy was apparent of all to see.

Amongst the taxi signs at the arrivals gate was one for a large party from HBO, the production company which is making Games of Thrones in Belfast.

Not 10 years ago it would have been unheard of to have as many global organisations doing business here and let's hope we attract many more.

But while we should welcome new entrants, we equally shouldn't forget the stalwarts of Bombardier, Harland and Wolff and their ilk which grace the skyline on the approach into Belfast City Airport and have been the backbone of the economy for years.

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