News of the Delta Airlines order for 75 CSeries passenger jets from Bombardier has been warmly greeted in the business community after month of growing frustration and concern at the progress of the cutting edge aircraft.
Invest NI chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the order, with an option for a further 50 aircraft was a “tremendous boost” for the firm and its staff.
“Today’s announcement is excellent news for Bombardier, the C Series programme and for Northern Ireland, where major components including the composite wings for the CSeries have been designed, developed and are manufactured,” he said.
“This significant order valued at US$5.6 billion, is the largest in Bombardier Commercial Aircraft history and makes Delta the CSeries aircraft’s largest customer.
“As the first 100% new aircraft developed in over 30 years, this agreement is an important milestone for the CSeries programme which has significant economic importance to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a global leader in aerospace technology and Invest NI continues to work closely with the local supply base to enhance its competitiveness and support its continued growth.”
Stephen Kelly, the head of Manufacturing Northern Ireland (MNI), said the order was an endorsement of an important achievement.
“Bombardier and its local partners have created a ground breaking aircraft,” he said.
“This order, from one of the world’s biggest carriers, is a sign of confidence in the company and the ingenuity of our local manufacturing base who have been pivotal in creating an aircraft which is changing the market and increasingly being picked up by airlines.
“We have remained confident of the success of C-Series, manufacturers know great products will always have their time, and today’s news we are sure will be followed by many more future orders.”
After intense negotiations over job losses, working patterns and wage restraint, Davy Thompson, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer expressed his union’s hopes that the Delta order could translate to a downward revision of the 500 planned redundancies in Belfast in 2017.
Warning that the depressed state of the private and regional aircraft market still posed a threat to Belfast employment he said: “The last few months have been very challenging for the workforce with a series of lay-off announcements affecting both agency and core workforces, as well as unprecedented changes to the company’s longstanding apprentice employment scheme.
“While the company’s difficulties are not exclusively caused by the overrun in development costs and delay in orders for the CSeries, the scale of this project is so great that the company’s future is dependent on its success in securing large-scale orders.
“We hope that today’s good news will be followed up by further orders from other airlines. The CSeries has a huge advantage in terms of fuel efficiency and this contract offers encouragement that other airlines will follow suit.
“While we are hopeful this order may allow management to reconsider plans to lay-off a further five hundred workers in Belfast in 2017; we recognise that the company continues to face very challenging conditions due to the depressed private and regional aircraft market and that CSeries represents only a small proportion of the work conducted in Belfast. “