Bombardier to move Learjet 85 work to Mexico

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Bombardier will shift structural manufacturing for the all-composite Learjet 85 from Grob Aerospace to the Canadian company's two-year-old factory in Queretaro, Mexico.

The transfer means greatly expanding the size and sophistication of Bombardier's operations at the Queretaro plant, which is already producing the Challenger 850 mid-fuselage and Global Express fuselage. The Mexico site also produces wire harnesses and parts for the Q400 turboprop airliner, but no composite structures.

"This is going to be a new technology for Mexico," Bombardier says.

The precise timing of the shift from Grob to Queretaro will not be disclosed.

Grob is designing and producing the fuselage for the first three Learjet 85 prototypes. Grob then will continue building a "certain number" of additional structures until production is completely shifted to Queretaro, Bombardier said.

The airframer's Belfast plant, however, remains its centre of excellence for composite manufacturing.

Bombardier is rapidly expanding operations in Queretaro, Mexico, and expects the workforce to rise to 2,000 employees in 2009. By year-end, roughly 1,300 employees will be employed at the facility. This is up from 900 employees, including administration and production, at the beginning of the year.

Bombardier is one of a growing list of aerospace companies building a presence in Mexico - and rival regional jet manufacturer Embraer has taken notice. At a 14 May press event in Washington DC, the Brazilian company's chief executive Frederico Fleury Curado said: "We have been investigating there as well. On a pure economical basis, given the cost of labour, it's a no-brainer."

However, says Curado, cost is not the only driver behind Embraer's choice of manufacturing locations. If these decisions were solely based on cost, work "would stay in Brazil".