Farnborough gets off to a flier with orders for Boeing, AgustaWestland and Rolls

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The Independent Online

Boeing clinched the first big deal of this year's Farnborough Airshow yesterday with a firm, $7.2bn (£4.6bn) order to supply 75 of its redesigned 737 Dreamliner planes to Air Lease Corporation, the US plane leaser.

The order was announced as the helicopter maker, AgustaWestland, gave British manufacturing a boost by revealing it would make the so-called search and rescue version of its AW189 model at its Yeovil plant in Somerset – creating about 1,500 jobs in the process. The company had seriously considered making the model at its main civil aerospace plant outside Milan, where the original "transport" version of the AW189 helicopter is made.

However, AgustaWestland is keen to build a sizeable civil manufacturing operation in the UK, where its business has suffered at the hands of UK Government defence spending cuts.

The group said the contract would employ about 450 staff at AgustaWestland in Yeovil and more than 1,000 people at suppliers.

It said staff employed by AgustaWestland to make the helicopter would comprise a mixture of new recruits and people already at the company who would otherwise have lost their jobs.

Elsewhere, on the first day at Farnborough, the Ministry of Defence signed a £50m deal with Airbus to supply a "full flight simulator" for the company's A400M military transport plane, which will be located at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Rolls-Royce also announced some new business yesterday, revealing that the US Army had awarded it a £118m, one-year contract to service 500 M250 engines, which power its fleet of Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters. The US Army has the option to renew the contract for up to four more years.

Rolls-Royce, which yesterday unveiled a half-size replica of the Trent 1000 engine that powers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made entirely out of Lego, also announced a contract to service Trent 900 engines for Malaysia Airlines.

In addition, the UK Government announced £3m of funding for 500 masters level degree places in aerospace engineering over the next three years, as it seeks to prop up an industry that is being hit hard by defence budget cuts.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: "In a hugely difficult time in the global economy UK aerospace is, quite simply flying.… But there can be absolutely no complacency. International competition gets more fierce by the year. The UK has got to fight for every contract and every opportunity."

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, added: "Our new masters partnership will boost the skills needed for growth. It will enable companies to train up existing employees and get talented new people into the aerospace sector at Masters level.

Up to 250,000 visitors are expected to attend the six-day Farnborough air show, with about 1,400 exhibitors from 40 countries due to attend.