Northern Ireland

Q&A: Bombardier, Belfast and the CSeries

Bombardier CS300 aircraft Image copyright other
Image caption Bombardier's new CSeries planes are on display at the Paris air show

Bombardier puts its new CSeries planes on display in Paris in the hope of securing new orders.

The aircraft are making their debut at the Paris Air Show.

Northern Ireland economy minister Jonathan Bell has travelled to the French capital, along with representatives of local aerospace companies, aiming to land business at the trade show.

But what is the CSeries and what is at stake for Bombardier's Belfast operation?

What is CSeries?

Bombardier has long made business jets, but this is its first move into larger passenger planes and a market dominated by the big two: Boeing and Airbus. There are two versions. The CS100 and the CS300 with seat capacity of between 100-160. The smaller CS100 costs $63m (£40.4m) and the CS300 has a $72m (£46m) list price.

Is it made in Belfast?

Only the wings are - at a specially constructed factory at Queen's Island. Costing £520m, it represents the biggest inward investment project ever in Northern Ireland. Bombardier has said that when CSeries goes into full production, it will support 800 jobs in Belfast. Currently, the Canadian company employs 5,700 staff locally.

Why is the Paris Air Show important?

It is the world's largest trade show. It happens bi-annually, attracting buyers from the major airlines. Bombardier badly needs to generate interest. It currently has 243 firm orders, short of the 300 target it set for when the plane goes into service early next year. Only one buyer ranks among the world's top 20 airlines by passenger traffic. It has been nine months since the last order, causing concern among shareholders.

Why is that?

The big selling point of the CSeries is its fuel economy due to its innovative carbon-fibre wings which make it significantly lighter. But analysts say it is no coincidence that there have been no orders since the price of oil tumbled. But there are other issues.

The aircraft has been delayed by three years and is $2bn (£1.2bn) over budget. It is due to obtain certification later this year. Meanwhile, one of Bombardier's competitors, Airbus, has been discounting the price of a similar-sized aircraft, the A320.

What is at stake?

CSeries has made it a very challenging year for Bombardier. There has been an overhaul in its top management team and even speculation that the commercial aircraft division may be put up for sale. CSeries is bleeding money with knock-on consequences.

Production of smaller Bombardier jets has been cut back or even suspended, causing jobs to be lost. Around 800 jobs in Belfast have gone within the past year, mostly among its contractor labour force.

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