Belfast Telegraph

Sense of pride and excitement has never left me, says Northern Ireland pilot


Antrim-born pilot Stephen Gates (right) with Terry Snow from Jet2
Antrim-born pilot Stephen Gates (right) with Terry Snow from Jet2
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning's newest Boeing plane was flown from America's Pacific Northwest to the airline's Leeds Bradford base yesterday by Northern Ireland-born captain Stephen Gates.

The plane had been assembled in Boeing's Renton factory outside Seattle. At the outset, its fuselage had travelled around 2,000 miles by railroad from contractor Spirit Aero Systems in Wichita to the Boeing factory.

He said he was looking forward to the journey over Canada, Greenland and Iceland.  

While it's a jet designed for short-haul, it's able to make the transatlantic journey as it's not yet fitted with interiors and is not weighed down by passengers.

Mr Gates has worked for the airline for around 10 years. He was brought up in Antrim and attended Ballyclare High before moving to Edinburgh for his studies in engineering.

He said the sense of pride and excitement in flying a new plane for the first time had never left him.

Boeing now bought a total of 34 New Generation (NG) 737 planes over the last two and a half years from the US manufacturing giant.  The total list price is around $3.9bn though Jet2 will have bought the planes at a discount.

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In January last year, a trade complaint by Boeing against Bombardier - in which Boeing argued that its rival received unfair state subsidies enabling it to win a key order for its C Series with Delta Air Lines - was settled by the US International Trade Commission in Bombardier's favour.

Boeing executives who joined management in Seattle at the delivery ceremony marking the handover of the aircraft weren't keen to comment on the dispute and the company's perspective one year on the craft known as the A220 since its purchase by Airbus. The Renton factory is working on NGs for customers all over the world, from Spice Jet to Air Canada, Delta, South West and Alaska. 

The company plans to ramp up production from 52 per month to 57 per month before the last NG leaves the factory in May this year.

And it has around 5,000 orders in backlog for the NG's successor, the 737 max.  

Overall, it's delivered 10,000 737s since the narrow-bodied commercial plane was launched in the late 1960s.

Belfast Telegraph