New orders for A220 jets 'means more work for Belfast'
LA-based leasing company in deal for 50 Airbus planes
An order for 50 new Airbus A220-300 aircraft should mean more work for workers in Belfast, where the wings are made, an economist has said.
Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation announced its letter of intent for 100 Airbus aircraft on the first day of the Paris Air Show.
The order includes 50 of the larger version of the former Bombardier C-Series.
The wings for the planes are still designed and manufactured in Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation, which the Canadian group put up for sale last month. Airbus, which has owned a majority stake in the aircraft series since July 2018, has been leading the marketing drive for the jets ever since.
Economist John Simpson said while Airbus has gained plaudits for driving the sales, he said there is growing evidence that the business planning at Bombardier for the (then called) C series was justified.
"Airbus has taken a lead role in selling the A220 and, subject to acceptable sub-contracting terms, this should mean extra work for Belfast," he said.
"The confirmation of the deal may give some reassurance to the Belfast plant that it will improve the profitability of the local programme.
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"In turn, that may mean that a buyer for the Belfast plant is easier to find at a more acceptable price."
US-based Spirit Aerosystems, UK group GKN and Airbus itself have all been linked to a move to acquire Bombardier's aerostructures division in both Belfast and Morocco.
Around 3,600 people are employed in the Northern Ireland plants, including around 1,000 working on the A220 wing programme. "The decision by Bombardier to sell the Belfast plant still hangs like a worrying dark cloud," said Mr Simpson
"This deal offers an improved prospect for some continuity of work and employment."
An order for another nine A220 planes was also reported yesterday in Paris.
Irish-American commercial aviation financing and leasing company GECAS and aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman's new US airline, codenamed 'Moxy', have reportedly agreed to a letter of intent for the purchase and leaseback of nine A220-300 aircraft, with deliveries scheduled in 2021 and 2022.
Meanwhile, the Paris Air Show this week has featured a strong delegation from the Northern Ireland aerospace industry.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of UK industry body ADS, said that its ten-year strategy to increase employment in the sector from 8,000 to 12,000 by 2024, had hit the half-way target of 10,000 jobs, generating £1.9bn a year in revenue.