Thompson Aero Seating to create world class Dynamic Test Facility

Thompson Aero Seating has announced plans for the first Dynamic Test Facility (DTF) on the island of Ireland, representing a £7.5m investment.

The new state-of-the-art 13,500 sq ft facility will catapult the company – which has around 700 staff across four sites in the Portadown and Banbridge areas – into a new era of development and innovation.

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.

From left: 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. Picture: Andrew Towe, Parkway Photography.

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.

David McCabe Head of Transformation; Carla Lockhart MP; Neil Taggart, Vice President and General Manager of Thomson Aero Seating and Diane Dodds MLA

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 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.

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said the nvestment commitment is a welcome boost for the local manufacturing economy. Alongside DUP MLA Diane Dodds, the local MP had engaged with Invest NI to help secure support for the firm.

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Carla Lockhart said: “Thompson Aeroseating has, like all those in the supply chain for aircraft, have been through a very turbulent time with the challenges facing the industry unprecedented. To have the company invest £7.5m in their new Banbridge testing plant is a huge expression of confidence in the local economy, and a very firm indication that they recognise the quality of staff available within the local job market.”