Longer range of Airbus jets part-built in Belfast to open up new routes
The A220 aircraft, which has its wings made in Belfast, will be able to fly further from next year, Airbus has announced.
The European aerospace giant has confirmed that the range of both the smaller and larger versions of the A220 will be extended by around 500 miles from the second half of 2020.
Airbus said it will open up new route possibilities, including potential transatlantic flights to the UK and Ireland.
The Toulouse-based company said the aircraft's maximum take-off weight will increase by 2.3 metric tonnes next year, extending the range of the larger A220-300 to 3,855 miles and the smaller A220-100 to 3,913 miles.
Airbus said it will allow airlines to tap into new routes which were not possible before, connecting key cities in Western Europe with the Middle East or South East Asia to Australia.
It could also see airlines use it for connecting the north eastern US with the UK or Ireland.
Formerly known as the Bombardier C Series, the narrow body jets were initially developed for the medium range market, carrying between 100 to 150 passengers.
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Airbus acquired a majority stake in the aircraft in July 2018. The wings continue to be manufactured in Bombardier's Northern Ireland aerostructures division, which the Canadian aerospace group put up for sale earlier this month.
Christian Scherer, the company's chief commercial officer, said: "In true Airbus tradition we improve our products constantly. This new maximum take-off weight will allow operators to reach markets which today cannot be served by other small single-aisle aircraft types."
Rob Dewar, head of engineering and customer support for the A220m, said: "Since its entry into service close to three years ago, the A220 aircraft has already proven that it is meeting or beating its initial performance targets, bringing more flexibility and revenue potential.
"Today, Airbus is reinforcing its confidence in the A220 platform and further enhancing its capabilities to meet upcoming market requirements."