Spirit AeroSystems To Take Over Bombardier’s Northern Ireland Ops

After a long period of uncertainty, Spirit AeroSystems has announced that it will take over Bombardier’s Northern Ireland operations on Friday. The deal was originally reached over a year ago, but the slump in the aviation industry has caused delays and a need for renegotiations.

bombardier belfast
Bombardier’s Belfast operations are being taken over by Spirit AeroSystems. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit AeroSystems acquires Bombardier for a reduced price

Spirit AeroSystems and Bombardier have announced that Spirit will be taking over Bombardier’s operations in Belfast on Friday, October 30. More than a year after a deal was reached between the companies, the terms have been renegotiated to reflect the pandemic’s impact across the aviation industry.

As well as the Belfast plant, which suffered a massive fire earlier this year, Spirit AeroSystems will acquire Bombardier’s aerostructure facility in Casablanca, Morocco, and a maintenance and repair plant in Dallas, Texas. The amended agreement sees the price payable reduced from $500 million to $275 million. Spirit will take on liabilities, including repayable government advances and pension obligations amounting to $824 million.

Spirit AeroSystems President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Gentile said,

“This acquisition accelerates our strategic transformation by increasing our Airbus content with the A220 composite wing and growing our aftermarket business. The transaction secures Spirit’s position as the world’s leader in composite structures for aircraft and as one of the leaders in integrated wing technologies.”

Bombardier CS100 model
The taking over of Bombardier’s Belfast plant will help Spirit to increase its work for Airbus. Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns via Flickr

Along with the rest of the aviation industry, Spirit’s operations will be negatively impacted in the coming years due to COVID-19. However, the price reduction mutually agreed with Bombardier will help to mitigate the impact. Mr. Gentile added that going forward, Spirit looks forward to becoming one of Bombardier’s largest suppliers.

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Spirit wants a bigger share of Airbus work

Spirit AeroSystems manufactures aerostructures for commercial and defense customers and operates sites in the US, UK, France, and Malaysia. The company’s products include aircraft fuselages and wing components, and it is a major supplier for Boeing and Airbus. Spirit would like to do more work for Airbus and the acquisition of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland plant, which makes A220 wings, is a part of that strategy.

Bombardier Challenger
Bombardier will now focus on business jets. Photo: Getty Images

Bombardier’s History

Bombardier began in 1937, but not in the growing aviation industry. It started out as the dream of a young Canadian, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, to build a snow vehicle to help the people of rural Quebec to travel the wintery snow-covered roads. In 1937, the seven-seat snowmobile was launched.

The snowmobile development saw phenomenal success, but it wasn’t until after Joseph-Armand’s death that the company began to diversify into other modes of transport. In the 1970s, Bombardier entered the railway and mass transit business and began to manufacture railway rolling stock.

It wasn’t until 1986 that Bombardier first took to the skies with the purchase of Canadair, manufacturer of Challenger widebody business jets and the CL-215 firefighting aircraft. In 1981, Bombardier launched the Canadian Regional Jet (CRJ) program. A series of acquisitions and growth initiatives saw the company prosper.

With Spirit AeroSystems taking over Bombardier’s aerostructure business, the Canadian company will focus on its business jet industry. Bombardier’s President and CEO, Éric Martel, said of the acquisition,

“Today’s announcement marks another milestone towards achieving our strategic goal of repositioning Bombardier as a pure-play business jet company.