Belfast Telegraph

Aerospace firm agrees major supply chain deal

A NEWLY formed Northern Ireland aerospace company has signed a letter of intent to work with one of the world's biggest aviation firms.

Sigma Aeronautics is to work alongside Spirit AeroSystems, the world's largest supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, making fuselages, composites, wings, spares and repairs.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed with Sigma as part of Spirit's strategy to further develop its supply chain within the United Kingdom. Sigma represents six aerospace companies located in Northern Ireland.

The signing at Farnborough Air Show was witnessed by dignitaries including Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Spirit AeroSystems was established in 2005 when it was bought out of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The company's headquarters are in Kansas and it also operated from bases in Prestwick, Scotland, Preston, England and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Spirit has been a major player in the history of many aircraft and aerospace companies over the years, including industry leaders such as Stearman, Boeing, Rockwell and British Aerospace Corporation.

It has also worked on the structures of Avro, Raytheon, Lockheed and Nimrod planes and alongside Airbus and Rolls Royce.

A report produced by the Aerospace Defence Security (ADS) trade body revealed that firms in Northern Ireland contributed 7.1% of the total UK aerospace output, with total sales amounting to £960m last year, with another £640m of orders in the pipeline.

Over 90% of those total sales came from exports, with £664m worth being sent outside the UK.

The EU received 20% of orders (£173m), the US 12.8% (£110m) and the rest of the world 44.2% (£380m), meaning that exports from aerospace, defence and security represented 12.85% of all Northern Ireland manufacturing exports in 2010.

Firms like Bombardier, BE, Goodrich, RFD Beaufort and Thales, have substantial operations in Northern Ireland that supply many aerospace and defence programmes worldwide.

Neil McManus, vice president and managing director of Spirit Europe, said the deal solidifies the firm's commitment to build and support the aircraft manufacturing supply chain in the UK, adding: "At Spirit Europe, we are keen to explore the potential for new opportunities in this area."

David Raymond, managing director of the new Sigma firm, said the potential for growth is very real and imminent.