Bombardier’s Belfast plant in shop window as innovative wings earn top award
The lightweight aircraft wings manufactured by Bombardier in Belfast will receive a top award today - enhancing the plant's attractiveness to a potential buyer, it's been claimed.
A team from the aerospace manufucturer will be presented with the 2019 MacRobert Award for UK engineering innovation by HRH The Princess Royal.
They are receiving the award for their work on the resin-infused advanced composite aircraft wings now used in the Airbus A220.
Around 1,000 of Bombardier's 3,500 workforce here work on the wings, which are designed to minimise the environmental impact of commercial jets.
And economist John Simpson said that the award will enhance the attractiveness of the Belfast plant to any prospective buyer.
Canadian company Bombardier announced in May that its Northern Ireland operations were going on sale. Dr Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award judging panel, said: "Bombardier's composite wing reflects how excellence in aeronautical engineering benefits both society and the environment. At a time of uncertainty for Belfast's engineering community, we hope this award helps them achieve the worldwide recognition they deserve."
Bombardier's decision to design and manufacture the wings of its C Series aircraft in Belfast is NI's biggest ever inward investment at £520m. But the programme is now owned by Airbus after it bought a majority share in the C Series, now the Airbus A220. John Simpson said the award was a reminder to Airbus that the skills and technology behind the award-winning wings had been grown in Belfast.
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In May, Airbus chief Guillaume Faury hinted the European aerospace giant could buy Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation. And earlier this week Spanish aircraft parts-maker Aernnova also emerged as a possible buyer. Mr Simpson said he hoped that in any event, the wing-making would be kept in Belfast - and that today's award could help that argument.
"What is important is that work on building the wings in the composites materials should stay in Belfast. This award establishes that it's Belfast that has the reputation and technology for the wings."
Michael Ryan, of aerostructures at Bombardier, said: "Bombardier Belfast is thrilled to win the Royal Academy of Engineering's 2019 MacRobert Award. It's a fantastic recognition of our highly skilled workforce, who have created a unique, cutting-edge technology to produce composite wings in Belfast which fly on commercial aircraft around the world.
"I'm extremely proud of our employees' engineering innovation, the significant support of our supply chain, and of Northern Ireland as a global leader in aerospace technology.
"We've been developing our advanced composite expertise in Belfast for half a century and it's an immense honour to receive the gold medal in the MacRobert Award's 50th year."