Bombardier will pitch to play a key role in a future Airbus composite wing programme, believing its expertise in designing and building the innovative carbonfibre wing for the A220 gives it the edge over the European manufacturer’s own factories.
“We have been very clear – this is an opportunity we need to grab,” says Michael Ryan, chief operating officer at Bombardier Aerostructures & Engineering Services (BAES), and head of the company’s Belfast plant, which builds the A220 wing. The Northern Ireland facility has been pioneering composite technologies since it was Shorts Aerospace in the 1980s.
Airbus took control of the troubled CSeries programme in July, renaming it the A220, and effectively allowing Bombardier to exit from a cripplingly loss-making commitment. However, the Canadian company retained the intellectual property rights on the wing, which BAES in Belfast continues to build for Airbus as a supplier.
The Belfast operation, together with Airbus’s own wing operations at Broughton and Filton, remain crucial to government efforts to keep wing production in the UK following Brexit. France, Germany, and Spain have long harboured ambitions to snatch responsibility for wing design once Airbus begins serious work on its next generation of aircraft, given the importance of the technology for industry.
Noting that Bombardier is the first outside company to build wings for an Airbus airliner, Ryan says: “If an opportunity comes on a new wing, Airbus would have to decide: ‘Do we do it in-house or go to a third-party provider?’ We would want to be a part of that, making a pitch to be involved in a new wing.”
Ryan was speaking to journalists earlier today at a Bombardier media luncheon, after returning from a visit to Toulouse.
Bombardier in Belfast was a supplier to Airbus long before the CSeries acquisition, building, among other items, nacelles for International Aero Engines V2500-powered A320 family aircraft, as well as Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered A320neos.
Airbus has engaged with a number of Northern Irish aerospace companies on its “Wing of the Future” research project, based in Filton.