Adieu to Bombardier but could it be Hallo or Ni hao to the new owner?

It's a prize asset for Northern Ireland but we'll have to wait to see who'll claim it
It's a prize asset for Northern Ireland but we'll have to wait to see who'll claim it
Share this article

Now that it’s clear that Bombardier’s days here are numbered, the pressing question must be who will become the next suitor for Shorts, historic planemaker of Queens Island, Belfast?

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, we perhaps should not be too surprised that this week has come .

After a long fight including a battle with the US International Trade Commission, Bombardier’s ‘loss’ of the C Series programme in July to Airbus, and its subsequent renaming as the A220, marked the start of the rot.

That was followed by the sale of the Q400 aircraft to Viking Air in November and then the acquisition of the Triumph wing plant in Texas in January this year.

The A22o is now safe, we must hope.

Airbus still intends to produce the aircraft in the US, while suppliers to Boeing - on the back foot over the 737 max - are looking to expand their horizons.

GKN and Spirit AeroSystems – the world’s biggest aerostructures specialists – have been suggested as potential suitors and Spirit has previously gone on record with its acquisition ambitions.

Based in North America and operating in the UK, it is obviously aware of the capabilities in Belfast. The Flight Global website on Friday hailed it as a “prize asset”.

Also aware is Airbus itself which also awarded a contract to Belfast for engine housings for the A320neo .

Airbus might well wish to develop Belfast as its own composites centre of excellence as its fleet evolves, though CEO Tom Enders has had a rant over the Government’s handling of Brexit, branding the lack of planning “a disgrace” and warning that that the aerospace group could pull out of the UK if there was no deal.

However, the key things there are ‘could’ and ‘if’.

Finally, China has also been named as a potential partner and there’s no doubt that Belfast would be attractive for a nation eager to establish itself as a player in the aviation and aerospace sectors.

However, given the close relationship between civil and defence work, there may be buyers more “in tune with UK strategic interests,” as Paul Everett CEO of industry body ADS elegantly put it on Thursday evening.