New £7.5m world-class testing facility to be built in Co Down

Thompson Aero Seating has announced the creation of a Dynamic Test Facility

A new world-class £7.5m testing facility is to be built in Co Down.

Thompson Aero Seating has announced the creation of a Dynamic Test Facility (DTF) which it said will catapult the company into a new era of development and innovation.

Described as the first of its kind on the island of Ireland, Thompson Aero Seating said the 13,500sq ft facility represents a £7.5m investment.

Building works for the new extension to the existing Thompson facility have already started at the company’s site in Banbridge, Co Down.

It is due to be completed by spring next year, with testing planned to begin from autumn 2023.

Neil Taggart, chief executive of Thompson Aero Seating, said it is a “significant investment”.

He said it will give the firm “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,” he said.

“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 firm said having an in-house dynamic testing capability for products means it will be able to lessen the carbon footprint of its seats in flight through increased innovation, allowing designs to be optimised to reduce weight.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered £750,000 support towards the capital investment.

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.”

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.

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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