Posted on Monday 24 April 2017 by Ulster Business

Thompson aero seating

Then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster pictured in 2014 with Gary Montgomery, CEO of Thompson Aero Seating, when the Portadown company announced a £10m investment.

That Thompson Aero Seating sits at the top of the Next 200 list may come as a surprise to some, not because it doesn’t deserve to be up there but because it has just, only just, been kept out of the Top 100.

The Portadown business has been one of Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing firms over the last few years by specialising in, as the name suggests, manufacturing aircraft seating.

To put its journey into context, turnover has jumped by 600% since 2011, a phenomenal rise which can be put down to an innovative, export-focused drive.

Anyone who has flown transatlantic with Aer Lingus or on the Airbus A330 with Quantas in business class will most likely have enjoyed its Vantage fully-flat seats, as have many other

It also offers the enchantingly-named CozySuite seats which are aimed at the premium economy and economy markets and are laid out in a staggered format. It has a second, side-on headrest as well as individual arm-rests and is designed for economy and premium economy cabins.

The design of those two key brands have been at the heart of the company’s success, addressing as they do the twin needs of airline operators for the optimization of every inch of the aircraft cabin space while at the same time offering the passenger a high level of comfort.

The firm was founded by James Thompson from Newry - although he later sold all his shares – and by 2009 had licensed its Vantage concept for production for several airlines including Swiss and Delta.

Thompson Aero Seating then turned its own hand to manufacturing in 2011 after securing its first production facilities at Seagoe Industrial Park in 2011.

Within a year it had designed and manufactured its first shipment of seats for bmi, Brussels Airlins and Austrian Airlines while also picking up another customer in the form of JetBlue.

The development of a larger seat, the Vantage XL, saw more orders picked up with airlines from across the world, including the first deal with Qantas and by 2014 the manufacturing facilities had expanded to over 10,000m2 and further clients added in the shape of American Airlines and Air Canada.

Since then, more and more airlines have taken delivery of Thompson Aero Seating while the Vantage products were added as an option from the Airbus catalogue for the A330, A320, A350 and A380.

In addition, a deal with Delta saw the Vantage XL seats installed in its new A350 fleet complete with a sliding door for every customer.

The new Chinese owner of aircraft seats manufacturer Thompson Aero in Portadown has been urged to guarantee the job security of its 300-strong workforce in the town.

Such progression didn’t go unnoticed.

Chinese aviation giant AVIC (The Aviation Industry Corporation of China) pounced on the Portadown business at the end of 2016 for an undisclosed sum.

AVIC doesn’t currently manufacture aircraft seats but does make whole aircraft exteriors and helicopters, as well as acting as a subcontractor in the manufacture of parts and components for firms like Boeing and Bombardier.

Thomson Aero Seating said it welcomes the backing of AVIC and becoming part of a broader offering of cabin interior products.

Thompson said that “being underpinned by a strong industrial backer in AVIC will serve to consolidate our continued growth in Northern Ireland”.

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