Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier to extend its aircraft factory in Belfast by 60%

Bombardier employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland
Bombardier employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Aerospace giant Bombardier is planning a major expansion of its aircraft facility in Belfast, it can be revealed.

The Canadian-owned plane maker has submitted plans which could see an additional 31,500 sq m extension to its huge 52,500 sq m site at Airport Road West.

Bombardier employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland, including 1,000 working on the former C Series jets, which have been rebranded as the A220, after Airbus took on a majority stake in the series.

The complete wings and fuselage components for the jet are made within the Canadian aerospace giant’s Belfast operation, which remains up for sale.

The new proposed extension would increase the facility by around 60%. The firm previously put in plans for expansion nearly a decade ago.

New plans include a 20,800 sq m expansion to the east of the site, with its wing assembly area extended by 4,500 sq m towards the west.

Further plans include adding a further 5,800 sq m to the plant’s wing tool storage facility.

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A spokesman for Bombardier told the Belfast Telegraph: “We are currently exploring opportunities to expand our wing facility on Airport Road West.”

He added: “It is quite possible that we will submit a formal planning application at a future date.”

The company has submitted a pre-application notice, and will carry out a consultation before submitting a full planning application.

In a planning document, the company says that “the manufacturing processes within the factory would not change due to the additional floor space”.

Bombardier will now host a public consultation, which takes place on October 16 at the Park Avenue Hotel on the Holywood Road. In May the group announced its plan to sell its aerostructures and engineering services operation in Belfast and Morocco, as part of the move to focus the company on trains and business jets.

Headed by Michael Ryan in Northern Ireland, the company has had to deal with the tricky ebbs and flows of an increasingly competitive international aviation market — going up against the handful of big players who dominate the global market.

It has cut the size of its workforce in the last few years, starting with the loss of 1,080 jobs as part of a huge headcount reduction, announced in 2016 — with 7,000 going across the firm’s global operations — followed by several smaller cuts.

The next step in the journey was French aerospace giant Airbus taking a majority stake in the C Series production, which also brought an end to that brand name, with Airbus fitting the newly acquired lines in as the A220.

The updated figures released by Airbus have now confirmed that it has orders for 421 A220-300 and 90 A220-100 jets on its books.

Around 80 of the passenger jets in the series have been delivered to date.

Belfast Telegraph