May 16, 2019 / 10:53 AM / 2 months ago

Airbus CEO: premature to talk about buying Bombardier Belfast plant

President of Airbus Commercial Aircraft Guillaume Faury arrives at the "Tech for Good" Summit in Paris, France May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA) said it was too early to talk about acquiring a Belfast factory placed on sale by Canada’s Bombardier (BBDb.TO).

Bombardier said this month that it would sell the plant which makes wings for the CSeries jet. Airbus bought the loss-making CSeries program from Bombardier last year while leaving it with control of the aerostructures operations.

Analysts have said the plant could be attractive to Airbus but CEO Guillaume Faury told reporters on Thursday that the discussion was “premature”.

The CSeries, renamed A220, is the first commercial aircraft to use a new form of carbon-fiber manufacturing called resin transfer infusion.

Current models of lightweight planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 are built from carbon fiber impregnated with resin, called “prepreg”. This is tailored into plane parts and cured inside pressurized ovens or autoclaves.

Under the new technology, instead of using fiber that is pre-impregnated with resin, parts are made from a dry textile which is placed in a mold and then infused with resin in the factory to reduce waste and speed production.

The next step is to dispense with the energy-hungry and bulky autoclaves as Russia has begun doing with its MC-21 jet.

Airbus is interested in both stages of the new technology as it prepares for high-speed composite jet production, industry sources say. It has called the plant a “key supplier” but declined to say if it would buy it or a sister plant in Morocco.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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