Bombardier Envisages Airbus-Supplier Role for Its Belfast Plant
The composite wings made in Belfast are among the most advanced CSeries features. Airbus's A320 and the 737 from Boeing, with which the 108-to-160-seat model overlaps, have an all-metal construction, even in their new upgraded forms
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Bloomberg By Christopher Jasper, Benjamin D Katz, and Yousef Gamal El-Din November 13, 2017
- Factory could link up with aerospace giant, Cromer says
- Future of site has been a major issue for U.K. government
The U.K. aero-structures factory, which employs more than 4,000 people, currently makes carbon-fiber wings for the single-aisle jet, giving it the expertise to work for Airbus itself, Fred Cromer, Bombardier's commercial aircraft chief, told Bloomberg TV at the Dubai Air Show on Monday.
"There is a real opportunity for Airbus to come in and create opportunities at that facility," Cromer said, adding that the Belfast site, formerly known as Short Brothers and acquired by Bombardier in 1989, has significant experience as a third-party supplier to other top-rank aerospace manufacturers.
Airbus's plan to take a majority stake in the C Series already promises to cut Bombardier's costs, help win new orders and sidestep U.S. tariffs on the jet by moving some manufacturing to Alabama. Making parts for Airbus would further deepen the relationship and reinforce the possibility of the Canadian company's technology featuring strongly in its new ally's future models.
Employment at the Belfast plant has become a major issue for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservatives rely on Ulster's Democratic Unionists for their majority in Parliament. May had lobbied U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider the C Series tariffs -- imposed after Boeing Co.claimed Bombardier had received illegal state aid -- as they appeared to put the future of the model in jeopardy before the Airbus deal provided a lifeline.
In addition to its work for Bombardier planes, the factory currently makes engine housings for Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and General Electric Co.and supplies cowls direct to Airbus for installation on current-generation A320-family turbines. A deal to make more parts for Airbus would safeguard Northern Ireland's largest manufacturer after it eliminated more than 1,000 jobs as part of wider cuts at Bombardier linked to sluggish C Series sales.
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