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Bombardier A220 sale to Airbus could be major boost for Belfast

Aviation firm is believed to be in talks with Bombardier

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Growth: Martin Craigs

Growth: Martin Craigs

Growth: Martin Craigs

Aerospace giant Airbus's reported deal to buy out Bombardier's stake in the A220 jet could present opportunities for Belfast, an industry expert has said.

The negotiations between the companies are at an advanced stage, according to a Bloomberg report, and a deal could be announced as early as this week.

The wings for the Airbus A220 are made at Bombardier's Belfast plant.

Bombardier invested more than £4.5bn in the A220's development before ceding control of the programme to Airbus in 2018 as it struggled to sell the single-aisle plane.

Martin Craigs, chairman of the Aerospace Forum Asia, said it is "basically a huge open door to expand further".

"(I think) it's great news for Belfast," added the former Short Brothers marketing executive.

"It's now a time for Northern Ireland to turn the 'oh dear what's going to go wrong' into (something positive).

"Airbus has its hands full… (its sites) are almost all are full up. They see a cost effective, entrepreneurial-minded design and production centre.

"They are buying in to the embedded multi-generational knowledge at Belfast. Airbus is making aircraft in China, in the US and components in 30 other countries - it is colour blind to flags.

"It's Europe's biggest industrial manufacturer. They have done a remarkably good job by binding people together with pragmatic and extremely driven individuals to make them the global success that they are."

Mr Craigs said the relationship between Spirit Aerosystems - which bought Bombardier's NI operations last year - and Airbus is an "ascending virtuous circle".

US-based Spirit Aerosystems is a major supplier to Airbus and Boeing and has said it wanted to increase its work with French giant Airbus.

The company's work with Boeing has been reined back - leading to job cuts - amid the ongoing grounding of its new 737 aircraft.

"Spirit has a rather heavy dependence on the 737," Mr Craigs said. "They are going to welcome with open arms any further growth connections with Airbus. Once fully in to the family, there are any amounts of additional work which can be handed over."

In 2017, Bombardier sold a majority stake in its C Series narrow-bodied jet programme to Airbus, with Bombardier itself still retaining an interest. The C Series was then renamed the A220.

The negotiations come a month after Bombardier said it may exit its joint venture with Airbus making the A220 jet. It said rising production costs are threatening the returns on its investment.

Airbus and Bombardier did not respond to a request for comment.

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