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Thompson Aero Seating building £7.5m ‘world class’ dynamic test facility at Banbridge

Building work for the new extension to the existing facility has now started and will be completed next spring

Thompson Aero Seating
Pictured L-R: Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director of Business Growth, Invest Northern Ireland; Neil Taggart, CEO, Thompson Aero Seating; Tongyu Xu, Chairman, Thompson Aero Seating and Ethna McNamee, Western Regional Manager, Invest Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Towe, Parkway Photography).

Thompson Aero Seating has announced plans for the creation of a world-class Dynamic Test Facility  in Northern Ireland at a cost of £7.5 million.

The investment will catapult the company into a new era of development and innovation.

As the first of its kind on the island of Ireland, the new state-of-the-art 13,500sq ft facility represents a £7.5m investment. Invest Northern Ireland has offered £750,000 support towards the capital investment.

Building works for the new extension to the existing Thompson facility have already commenced at the company’s site in Banbridge, and are due to be completed in spring next year, with testing planned to begin from Autumn 2023.

Neil Taggart, CEO of Thompson Aero Seating, said: “This is a significant investment by Thompson that will give us enhanced capability for certifying new products for airworthiness and carrying out research and development work locally. Currently, there is no Dynamic Test Facility on the island of Ireland which has meant sending products and team members to either Europe or the USA. Having this on-site capacity will enable us to save on lead times in the development of new seats and improve sustainability – which are positives for our airline customers.”

The launch of the new facility coincides with the gradual global recovery in the aerospace sector and represents another positive move by Thompson, reinforcing its position as a major player in the aircraft interiors industry.

In addition to cost savings, having an in-house dynamic testing capability for products means Thompson will be able to lessen the carbon footprint of its seats in flight through increased innovation, allowing designs to be optimised to reduce weight.

Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director of Business Growth at Invest NI, said: “This investment marks a significant commitment by Thompson Aero Seating to build on its world-renowned expertise in delivering high-end seating globally.

“Our support towards the construction of the new facility will enable the company to grow its workforce and further enhance the skills of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base.

“The aerospace sector has faced very challenging times because of the impact of the pandemic on airline travel. This investment by Thompson is a very positive sign of its commitment to recovery and future growth and I wish the company well with its plans for the future.”

The new facility will feature advanced sled-testing technology, which will enable Thompson’s engineers to reproduce the dynamic conditions of a full-scale crash event in a controlled environment. The reverse accelerator sled being installed can produce up to 100g of accelerations.

Neil Taggart continued: “The project has been majority funded by Thompson’s shareholder, with part-funding from Invest Northern Ireland.

“We would also like to thank local MPs, Councillors, business leaders from the Makers Alliance, from ADS the national trade body for Aerospace, Defence, Security & Space and our Sharing In Growth business transformation coaches for their continued engagement on the project.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Thompson Aero Seating. We’re looking forward to pushing the boundaries of design and bringing further innovation to the aviation industry.”

Invest NI’s R&D support is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014–2020.

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