Derry airport maintenance hub as part of £7.5m package fails to fly!

A company engaged last year by Invest NI to look into the possibility of establishing a manufacturing and maintenance hub at City of Derry Airport, as part of a proposed £7.5m investment, did not proceed beyond a preliminary scoping stage, it's emerged.

Meanwhile, a second company, Eirtech Aviation Composites Ltd., has punched through with its proposal to develop a similar hub in East Belfast and will be recruiting 124 new jobs over the next four years.

Two years ago a £7.5m investment package was announced for CoDA and the Eglinton facility confirmed at the time that some of that would be used to develop an aviation Maintenance and Repair Operation (MRO).

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This was one of a range of commitments in the Airport Masterplan of 2012, which also proposed the development of an Aviation Business Par that would be located to the south of Runway 20.

However, on Friday last it emerged that the development of a Derry MRO - similar to that, which will be operated by Eirtech in Belfast - hasn’t got off the ground.

A spokesperson for Invest NI said: “We engaged with two companies in 2017 to evaluate several possible locations in Northern Ireland for an aircraft repair and maintenance operation.

“One company brought forward a project for support which came to a successful conclusion and was recently announced.

“The second company did not proceed beyond scoping stage.

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“Unfortunately, we cannot comment further. Our engagement with companies (indigenous or foreign owned) about potential investments is commercially sensitive.

“We can only provide comment on those projects which we provide formal offers of support and which are accepted by the company.”

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council explained that discussions in relation to any proposed development are being led by Invest NI, with CoDA providing the technical support and assistance required to promote CoDA as a location for such a facility.

The Council said it cannot comment on the details of any individual enquiry.

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Outside the MRO the Airport Masterplan 2012 included separate proposals for the Aviation Business Park that would host a mix of offices and light industrial units, a hotel and conference facility and a petrol station.

The plan also said that a railway halt at CoDA was a long term objective but admitted that this was unlikely to be achievable in the short-term due to funding constraints.