Bombardier has begun a restructuring process in which it will merge its business and commercial aviation business into a single group, Bombardier Aviation. In addition to this change, the Canadian company announced that it intends to sell its aerospace factories in Casablanca, Morocco, and in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The sale of the plant in Belfast is particularly special. The unit was built in 1948 by Short Brothers, the world’s oldest still-active aircraft manufacturer. The company was founded in 1897 as a balloon factory, and from 1909 began to produce the rustic single-engine Wright Flyer under license from the Wright brothers. And it has not stopped since.
In 1989, Short Brothers was acquired by the Bombardier group and started to produce only aerostructures. Curiously, a year earlier the North Irish company had announced the FJX program, a small regional jet designed to rival precisely the Bombardier CRJ100, which was also in development. The aircraft, however, never left the drawing boards.
The last complete aircraft produced by the manufacturer was the Short Tucano, the local version of the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano. In the past, the Northern Ireland company was famous for producing large seaplanes and one of its most popular designs was the Short 360 turboprop.
In the three decades that Bombardier owned the company, Short Brothers became the largest manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland. The unit has also produced components for Rolls Royce, General Electric and Boeing. “We will focus our aerospace activities around our major facilities in Montreal, Mexico and our newly acquired facilities in Texas,” said Alain Bellemare, President and CEO of CEO of the Bombardier Group. “Collectively, these facilities provide Bombardier with all the skills, technologies and capabilities to design, produce and service the current and next generation of aircraft.”
Bombardier’s decision to sell its facilities in Belfast and Casablanca comes after the Canadian group cut most of its products in commercial aviation. In 2017, Airbus acquired the C Series program and in 2018 the Q Series turbo-propeller family was sold to Viking Air, also from Canada. Currently the Canadian group has only maintained the CRJ series of regional jets that has 50 orders not yet delivered.