Belfast Telegraph

Announcements expected in Paris for Northern Ireland aerospace firms

Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Ten Northern Ireland aerospace companies will travel to the Paris Air Show today, with a number of significant announcements expected affecting the industry here.

Speculation is mounting that Airbus could be preparing to announce at least one major order for the A220 aircraft series, which features wings made in Bombardier's Belfast plant.

Last month the Canadian group put both its Northern Ireland and Moroccan aerostructures operations up for sale.

Around 3,600 people work across its sites in Belfast, Newtownabbey, Dunmurry and Newtownards, with a significant number involved in the design and manufacture of the A220 wings.

According to reports in Moroccan media in recent days, US-based Spirit AeroSystems, UK group GKN and Airbus have all been in active negotiations with GIMAS (Group of Moroccan Aeronautical and Space Industries) regarding the sale of Bombardier's operations.

All three had already been named as potential suitors, but it's the first time that such talks have been reported.

The La Vie Éco newspaper has also reported that both the Moroccan and NI aerostructures operations will be sold at the same time as a single package.

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This week's Paris Air Show could also see Bombardier provide more clarity on efforts to sell its CRJ programme.

Two weeks ago the Canadian transport group confirmed it was in advanced talks regarding the sale of the regional jet programme to Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The central fuselage of the CRJ aircraft series is designed and manufactured in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, there's speculation that Airbus could be preparing to announce a significant order for A220 jets at Paris.

US carrier Spirit Airlines and Air France are understood to be among the companies currently in shopping mode for a narrow-body aircraft.

The jets, formerly known as the Bombardier C-Series, are believed to be on the shortlist for the Florida-based airline, which is reportedly preparing to place an order that could top 100 aircraft.

Spirit already operates a large all-Airbus fleet of 135 jets, with firm orders for another 43 A320neo aircraft.

The airline recently confirmed it is no longer considering Embraer's E2 jet, considered a rival to the Airbus A220.

But it's unclear whether the deal could be finalised in time for this week's show in Paris.

Speculation also surrounds a potentially smaller order from Air France. A spokesman for Airbus said the company doesn't comment on speculation.

Considered the world's largest gathering of aerospace companies, Invest NI has confirmed that 10 Northern Ireland-based firms will exhibit at the Paris Air Show.

Bombardier, Causeway Aero, Boyce Precision Engineering, CCP Gransden, McGreevy Engineering, Moyola Precision Engineering, Denroy Plastics, SAM Aerospace, the Nacelle Group and United Performance Metals will all make the trip.

Belfast Telegraph