Posted on Thursday 7 March 2013 by Ulster Business

Bomb belfast

The wings for the new CSeries aircraft are made in Belfast.

Aerospace company Bombardier has confirmed it is on track to complete the first test flight of its new CSeries aircraft - which is partly manufactured in Belfast – by the end of June.

At a briefing for journalist held simultaneously in Mirabel, near Montreal, and Belfast, the company said it was making "excellent progress" as the CSeries programme gets ready to move to the flight phase at the end of the second quarter.

More than 800 Bombardier staff in Belfast are working on the project.

Designed for the growing 100- to 149-seat market, Bombardier has called the CSeries a "game changer" for both the company and the aircraft market, claiming it is cheaper to operate and more environmentally friendly than rivals in the category.

The new model will put the Canadian-owned firm head to head with the smaller jets produced by the world's two largest aircraft manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus.

So far Bombardier has received booked orders for 382 aircraft from 14 customers, with firm orders for 148 planes.

"We are very pleased with the progress being made on the CSeries aircraft program and we are excited to open our facility and publicly show the world the advances and key milestones we have achieved as we get ready for first flight," said Mike Arcamone, President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

"The CSeries aircraft program is making solid progress, having met a number of key milestones over the last few months... we are now focusing on three key areas that will lead to our safety-of-flight permit: static airframe testing, building of flight test vehicles and on-the-ground testing."

As the first completed jet was unveiled in Canada, reporters in Northern Ireland got a first look inside the £520m factory in Belfast where the advanced composite wings for the CSeries are being designed and manufactured. The 600,000 sq ft factory, the first new facility the company has built here since the 1930s, is at the cutting edge of engineering technology and represents a huge investment for Bombardier.

The company confirmed production is already underway, with four sets of wings shipped to Canada for assembly with the other components. Capacity exists in the massive facility to supply upwards of 120 sets of wings a year when full production is reached.

Mr Arcamore praised the state-of-the-art CSeries factory and staff in Northern Ireland, saying the company was "very proud of its Belfast family".

Bombardier bought Shorts PLC in 1989 and has invested over £2.1bn in its five locations in the province since then. Bombardier Belfast has a role in production of all of Bombardier's family of aircraft and the company now accounts for 10% of Northern Ireland's manufacturing exports.

Of the firm's 5,000-strong workforce over 800 are currently engaged in the CSeries project, with 2,000 more jobs supported in its supply chain. The number of direct jobs will remain about the same when production ramps up over the next two to three years, with some engineers moving off the project but more production staff coming on to it.

Prior to the CSeries update, there was some concern among analysts that Bombardier was running behind its targets for sales and customers. But Mr Arcamore said today the firm was on track to meet its goal of securing 20 customers and 300 orders by mid-2014. He noted that it had brought three new customers on board towards the end of 2012 and said he "fully expected this momentum to continue".

Of Bombardier's new range, the smaller CS100 model has 100 to 125 seats and a list price of $62m. The CS300 will carry 120 to 145 passengers and has a list price of $71m

Bombardier says the CSeries will offer a 15% cash operating cost advantage and a 20% fuel burn advantage to airlines versus aircraft currently on the market. It is designed to achieve reduced noise and emissions and is significantly lighter than other aircraft in the same seat category.

The plane, due to enter service by mid-2014, will compete against the smaller variants of Boeing's 737 and Airbus's A320. Both manufacturers are developing reworked versions of these models (the 737 max and A320neo) which will have more fuel efficient engines.

Upping the ante again, Bombardier today said it had introduced an extra capacity seating option that will increase the CS300 aircraft seating to up to 160 passengers, providing customers with additional payload and range flexibility, as well as increased productivity. It also confirmed that Latvia-based airBaltic is one of the customers to have selected the version with more seats.

"Our main focus continues to be the development, optimization and marketing of the CSeries family of aircraft in the 100- to 149-seat market segment. The CSeries aircraft is a game-changer in a changing economic environment, and following keen customer interest and market trends, we have enhanced the productivity of the CS300 aircraft further by offering the extra capacity seating option," stated Mr Arcamone.

 

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