Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland aviation sector as crucial to us as ever: senior Airbus figure

From left: Philip McBride (Thales), Ciara Kennedy, Paul Everitt (ADS), Katherine Bennett and Noel Lavery at yesterday’s event
From left: Philip McBride (Thales), Ciara Kennedy, Paul Everitt (ADS), Katherine Bennett and Noel Lavery at yesterday’s event
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

A senior figure in Airbus has said Northern Ireland's aerospace sector has never been more important to the company.

Airbus' senior vice president in the UK Katherine Bennett was speaking as firms from across the industry gathered in Belfast yesterday for a 'meet the buyer' programme organised by aerospace group ADS. The Department for the Economy also took part in the event.

It marked six months since Airbus officially became the majority stakeholder in the A220 jet series, the wings for which are made in Bombardier's Belfast plant.

On Wednesday Delta Airlines became the latest US carrier to up its stake in the A220. The airline upgraded its 2016 order for 75 of the smaller A220-100 planes, switching 35 to the larger model and adding another 15 A220-300s.

It followed moves by US airlines JetBlue and Moxy to firm up their orders for a total of 120 A200-300 planes at the end of December. Moxy is the working title for a new low-cost carrier set up by David Neeleman, who helped found JetBlue and a number of other airlines.

"Airbus has been relying on Northern Ireland's aerospace sector talent for many years, and following our new partnership on A220, the region is more important to us than ever," Ms Bennett said.

Permanent secretary at the Department for the Economy Noel Lavery said the aerospace industry now employs around 10,000 here in a cluster of just under 100 companies, generating revenues of £1.4bn a year.

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"It is an ambitious sector that has well-established and strong international partnerships, founded on innovation and quality performance," Mr Lavery added.

Ciara Kennedy, vice president for procurement and supply chain at Bombardier, said the event highlighted the significance of the local aerospace sector.

"Together with government, ADS, and other aerospace companies, we are committed to creating an environment that ensures the right skills, technologies and infrastructures are in place to help suppliers attract investment, compete for new business and support the local economy."

Yesterday's event also saw companies here sign up to the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, which ADS described as a commitment by the industry to improving gender balance across its organisations.

The Department for the Economy joined firms such as IPC Mouldings, Denroy Plastics, Moyola Precision Engineering and Bradfor in signing up to the charter.

Belfast Telegraph