Aircraft order boost Bombardier in Belfast

The Challenger 350 forms part of Bombardier's range of business aircraft
The Challenger 350 forms part of Bombardier's range of business aircraft

THERE was good news for Bombardier's Belfast workforce yesterday as the company confirmed an order for 20 Challenger 350 aircraft, parts of which are made in the city.

The Montreal-headquartered aerospace giant said an undisclosed buyer had made a firm order for 20 of the planes.

It said the deal was worth around $534 million (£377m).

The announcement will provide a boost for workers at Bombardier in Belfast following news that the company plans to make around 1,000 staff redundant.

A spokeswoman for the firm in Belfast said: "We welcome the order for the Challenger 350 jets as Belfast is responsible for the design and manufacture of the centre fuselage for the aircraft."

Bombardier Business Aircraft president David Coleal said: “With its outstanding performance and reliability, the class-leading Challenger 350 aircraft dominates the super-midsize segment and continually outperforms – it’s simply one of the best business jets in the market."

Bombardier said the Challenger 350 jet "builds upon the legendary segment defining clean-sheet Challenger 300 jet".

"Not only does it feature the very latest in avionics functionality, but it also offers the segment’s most advanced cabin that maximises natural light and redefines interior comfort and design sophistication, all the while maintaining the performance attributes that have become synonymous with the Challenger family," it said.

In February, Bombardier's east Belfast workforce was rocked with news of 1,000 planned job losses, making up around one-fifth of the entire payroll.

It was the latest hammer blow for the manufacturing industry after tyre maker Michelin and cigarette producer JTI Gallaher announced plans to leave Northern Ireland, putting up to 1,800 people out of work.

Bombardier said it needed to reduce its global staff by 7,000 amid tough economic factors.

It said 200 employees in Belfast were at immediate risk of redundancy with a further 380 to be dropped from its support staff.

And another 500 may be forced out next year, the company said.

At the time, a Bombardier spokeswoman said it hoped to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum and that 60 support staff had already left the firm in January.

Many analysts pointed to the struggles of Bombardier's CSeries aircraft programme.

Workers in Belfast are responsible for making the wings and fuselage for the new planes.

But the company has struggled to secure as many orders as anticipated for the aircraft which is set to finally go into commercial use later this year.