Kilkeel aerospace factory is ‘now ready for future growth’
The Managing Director of Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel has said he is optimistic about the role the local manufacturing plant can play in the future of the aerospace sector.
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic hit the sector particularly hard, as global travel reduced dramatically.
The reverberations were felt locally, with Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel, announcing over 290 job losses since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
When it confirmed that 62 jobs would be shed back in May of this year Collins Aerospace said at the time that it was “currently facing a slower than expected recovery from the pandemic”.
It is one of the largest employers in South Down.
Six months on from that statement in May, Stuart McKee, Managing Director of Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel, has said the company is now ready for future growth.
Speaking during the recent visit of Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to the local factory, Mr McKee said it is hoped to “grow the company again to pre-pandemic levels”.
As part of this preparation for future growth the company has embarked on a recruitment drive.
“Collins Aerospace has been situated on this site in Kilkeel since 1966,” Mr McKee added.
“As such, we have become an integral part of the community, which is extremely important to us.
“We are ranked among the largest and most successful companies in Northern Ireland and are one of the leading aircraft interior manufacturers globally. Our core business is the assembly of seating for commercial aircrafts – ranging from economy to business and first-class options. We also manufacture components for use in the assembly of seats.
“Having right-sized the business during the pandemic, we are now ready for future growth. I’m optimistic about the future of aerospace and the part that we, here in Kilkeel, can play.
“We hope to grow the company again to pre-pandemic levels and we know that this will have a positive effect on the supply chain too. Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel not only offers real value to our customers, but to the economy, to Northern Ireland and to the wider local community in Kilkeel.”
The Economy Minister toured the site and was shown some of the seating that serves many of the major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
“Northern Ireland’s aerospace industry is founded on a strong entrepreneurial heritage and over the years has grown to become a global leader in aerospace technology,” Mr Lyons said.
“The industry has long been one of the key drivers of our economy and is rich in knowledge, skills and experience.
“It was a pleasure to see first-hand those skills in action whilst visiting the team at Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel and the range of seating it manufactures to an excellent standard for many of the larger OEMs.
“Collins Aerospace has an important part to play in helping to drive forward the principles highlighted within ‘10X Economy’, my Department’s economic vision as we seek to recover, rebuild and rebound back stronger than ever.”
The global company is renowned for its innovative seating solutions for a range of commercial aircraft and business jets, as well as its state-of-the-art designs, quality of construction, lightweight comfort, functionality, and safety.
Recent announcements have seen the Meridian main class seating in Air France’s A220, which is the widest in the market and includes thoughtful amenities to improve customers’ flying experience with an advanced ergonomic design that builds on Meridian’s industry leading seat.
Last week, Collins Aerospace announced that it continues to retrofit British Airways (BA) Boeing 777 fleet with the newest business class seat, Club Suite, providing the very best of quality, style, and comfort for BA’s customers.
Dr Leslie Orr, ADS (NI) said: “Given the recent ADS forecast on commercial passenger aircraft production rates it is great to see optimism return to the aerospace sector.
“The team in Kilkeel at Collins Aerospace and their achievements over the years only reinforces and highlights that Northern Ireland is a leading region in the United Kingdom for seating manufacturing.
“I applaud them on right-sizing the business during the pandemic and that they are now ready for future growth.”