Belfast Telegraph

Beleaguered Bombardier gets lift-off with £357m order

By Margaret Canning and John Mulgrew

Aerospace giant Bombardier has won a $544m (£357m) order for 20 of its Challenger 350 business jets in a direct boost for its Belfast workforce.

Texan company Flexjet, which sells shares in private planes, has made a provisional order for the aircraft, the centre fuselages of which are made in Belfast.

The deal is a welcome boost for the manufacturer after continuing concerns over its flagging CSeries project.

David Coleal, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said: "Flexjet is one of our most valued customers, and we are pleased that our Challenger 350 aircraft, built for optimal comfort and performance, will add to Flexjet's continued growth and success."

Michael Silvestro, the chief executive of Flexjet, added: "Our owners have already expressed their appreciation for the luxurious comfort and superior performance of the Challenger 350 aircraft. We look forward to offering them more options for an outstanding experience."

The news came as Bombardier continues talks with the newly-elected Canadian government over a possible bailout of the struggling CSeries programme.

The ambitious narrow-bodied passenger aircraft has received 243 orders, which is well short of a target of 300.

It has already received a $1bn (£660m) bailout from the Quebec regional government.

While Belfast workers are engaged on the wings for the CSeries, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that, in an investment of £520m by Bombardier, the workforce here has already produced between 15 and 20 fuselage mid-sections for the CSeries.

It is understood that some work for the middle section of the CS100 and CS300 has moved from Bombardier's Chinese partner Shenyang Aircraft Corporation to Belfast.

Around 150 staff have been working on the sections since the end of 2011, it is believed.

Bombardier is also thought to have had discussions surrounding growing Northern Ireland's input into the CSeries programme.

The jet is currently built across a number of sites.

The forward section of the aircraft is constructed in Canada, while the wing boxes are made in Spain.

Bombardier has said that it has been "supporting" its Chinese partner Shenyang Aircraft Corporation by providing the "initial sets of the CSeries centre fuselages".

Belfast Telegraph