Just a few hours ago in Belfast, at 20:45 local time, a massive fire was reported at Bombardier’s manufacturing facilities in the Northern Ireland capital. According to the BBC, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) received a call and promptly attended the blaze, located on Airport Road, just two miles east of Belfast City Hall. The facility is best known for manufacturing the wings of the Airbus A220.
What we know so far…
Unfortunately, not much is known about this incident, including the exact cause of the fire nor the extent of the damage to the factory. We do know that there are no reports of injuries or fatalities at this time. The road, which is situated just behind George Best Belfast City Airport, has been closed to traffic.
A Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson told The Belfast Telegraph,
“The fire appears to have started in machinery and the cause of the incident is under investigation. At this stage the cause is believed to be accidental.”
Massive fire at Bombardier Aerospace’s Belfast facility. The plant is set to be divested to Spirit AeroSystems in the very near future. The factory makes wings for the Airbus A220, formerly the CSeries. https://t.co/p8vI8eEIjM
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) May 24, 2020
Earlier on during the incident, Fire Service Area Commander Dermott Rooney labeled the fire as “very significant,” further saying to the BBC,
“Obviously, we are trying to get the fire under control. It’s very early stages, we would ask members of the public to stay away from the area so they don’t hamper our efforts…We’ve no indication of any particular risk to the local people, but they would be well advised to keep their windows and doors closed,”
About Bombardier’s facility in Belfast
Bombardier is known to be one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers, with 3,000 workers alone working at the site. The site itself is best known within the aviation world as the plant responsible for producing the composite wings of the Airbus A220 (formerly Bombardier CSeries).
In 2018 Airbus took a controlling share of the aircraft program and subsequently renamed the aircraft to its current name. As of this past February, Bombardier had sold its remaining stake in the program to Airbus, exiting the commercial aircraft sector completely.
In October 2019, The Guardian reported that Bombardier had agreed to sell this Belfast facility to US aerospace manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems as part of a $1.1bn (£850m) deal. Spirit Aerosystems is also Boeing’s largest supplier of 737 MAX components.
The Guardian reports Spirit’s chief executive, Tom Gentile, as saying,
“Belfast has developed an impressive position in business jet fuselage production, in addition to the world-acclaimed fully integrated A220 composite wing. This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy of increasing Airbus content, developing low-cost country footprint, and growing our aftermarket business.”
At this point in time, it’s unknown where along the timeline the sale and transition from Bombardier to Spirit was at. Simple Flying has contacted Spirit Aerosystems, Bombardier Aerospace, and Airbus for comment on this developing story. However, at the time of publication, no response has been received from any group. This article will be updated if any news comes in.
Given the magnitude of the blaze shown in photos, it seems quite likely that this would affect the production rate of the A220. We will await comment from Airbus on that particular topic.
How do you think Airbus will adjust its production due to this situation? Let us know in the comments.