Thompson Aero Seating, a UK-based supplier of business and first-class seating has announced a plan to invest $8.9 million to develop a new seat crash test facility.
The Dynamic Test Facility (DTF) which will serve as an aircraft test simulator at the Thompson brownfield site in Banbridge, County Down is currently in the construction phase. The construction is estimated to be completed in early 2023.
The test equipment will be installed in the middle of 2023, and the facility is likely to be operational during the end of 2023. Recruitment for several test engineering roles is also set to open up as construction continues. The roles will shape the format of the new testing capability within the business as well as being responsible for designing aircraft interiors.
The new facility will be equipped with sled testing technology that will reproduce the conditions of a full-scale crash in a controlled environment allowing engineers to gather the data needed to produce new seats.
Research and development work to certify the airworthiness of the new products will be able to be done without leaving the DTF. Previously, no test facilities existed in Ireland, meaning Thompson Aero had to send products and team members to test facilities in Europe and North America.
This new development cuts the extra cost of travel and delivery out of the equation and allows for a local contribution to the development of products.
Neil Taggart, chief executive 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”.
“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.”
In addition to saving costs, this new development will also lessen the carbon footprint generated by the company by reducing the current weight of the seats.
By reducing the weight of the seats while maintaining safety, the total weight of the aircraft will be reduced meaning less fuel will be used during flight.
Jeremy Fitch, executive director of business growth at Invest NI and the main investor of this project, also weighed in: “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.”