London City Airport setting sights on Airbus passenger plane that's part-made in Northern Ireland
A director at London City Airport has said it hopes to certify the passenger plane A220-300, the wings of which are made in east Belfast by Bombardier, for flights using the airport.
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The east London airport already uses the smaller A220-100, originally developed by Bombardier as the C Series, for Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) flights to Zurich and Geneva.
Liam McKay, the airport's corporate affairs director, said it hoped to certify the larger A220-300 for use. He said the-then CS100 had been crucial to its campaign for its £344m City Airport development programme, which went on to win planning permission in 2016.
While developed and launched by Bombardier, the C Series is now part of Airbus after it bought a majority stake in the programme, renaming its two products the A220-100 and A220-300.
Mr McKay said: "When we were going for planning permission, the C Series was front and centre of that campaign because it was the embodiment of the next generation of aircraft that were quieter and more fuel-efficient - all those things from a community perspective that are so vital to the expansion."
The CS 100 - now the A220-100 - was "performing wonderfully" on its SWISS routes to Zurich and Geneva, he said. And Mr McKay said its qualities would be a selling point for other airlines as London City adds more stands to accommodate more airlines and planes. "For us, as we grow and we start to physically add more stands to accommodate next generation aircraft, we will be saying to airlines that this is what these airlines do and this is how they are performing."
Looking ahead, he said the airport was preparing for certification of the A220-300. "Because we have a short runway, planes need to go through some testing to be certified to fly safely in and out due to the steep ascent and descent into the airport. There has to be extensive testing to make sure they can safely fly.
"One of our aspirations would be to get the 300 certified. We are promoting the 100 and its ability and looking to get 300 certified over next few years.
"If we do that, that's really positive mood music for Bombardier in Belfast and also really positive for City Airport."
Mr McKay said the airline also hopes to add a further daily rotation on its Belfast City Flybe route to London. He said the route - which allows a 20-minute connection into central London on the Docklands Light Railway - was increasing its numbers of leisure travellers.
He said the route has so far attracted 120,000 passengers this year - around the total across the whole of last year. London City Airport and airline Flybe - which flies to 15 destinations including London City from George Best Belfast City - this week supported a Westminster reception calling for a "new deal" on the economy here.
The reception was organised by Hospitality NI, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI.