New A220 order to give Belfast Bombardier plant £100m boost
Air France is preparing to announce a significant order for Airbus A220 planes at the end of the month, according to reports.
French business newspaper La Tribune has reported that an announcement is expected to take place during the presentation of the first half 2019 results for Air France-KLM on July 31.
The major European airline needs to replace its short and medium-haul fleet from 2021.
The fleet comprises around 114 jets.
Bombardier's former C-Series, which can carry up to 160 passengers, is the front-runner to replace Air France's 18 Airbus A318s (131 seats) and its 33 A319s (142 seats).
Air France is also expected to split its order with the slightly larger Airbus A320neo.
It could represent the biggest endorsement to date by a European airline for the A220 and could be worth tens of millions of pounds for Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation.
The complete wings and fuselage components for the jet are made within the Canadian aerospace giant's Northern Ireland operation, which remains up for sale.
Belfast workers are also involved in the development and supply of thrust reverser technology for the A320neo, a programme boosted by a £12m Government grant last summer.
While the price of individual components remains closely guarded within the industry, recent estimates following the Paris Air Show, where Airbus secured a total of 95 orders for A220 aircraft, suggested that Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation could benefit by around £100m from the orders.
Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation led the A220 orders in Paris by signing a letter of intent for 50 of the larger and more expensive A220-300s.
Delta, JetBlue and Danish lessor Nordic Aviation Capital further expanded the A220 order book.
Airbus acquired a majority stake in the former C-Series in July 2018 and immediately spoke of ramping up production of the aircraft programme.
In the previous year (2017), Bombardier delivered 28 sets of wings from its Northern Ireland operation.
Last week Airbus confirmed that it had delivered 21 A220 aircraft to airlines during the first six months of 2019.
A total of six jets were delivered during the month of June, suggesting the ramp-up described last summer is finally being realised.
The latest official figures from Airbus for the six months to June 2019 show it has orders for 551 A220s on its books.
The bulk of the orders (461) is for the larger A220-300 model. A total of 78 A220s have been delivered to date.