A project completely inflated thanks to nearly $74 million in public funds

The Legault government has just reinvested more than $50 million in France’s Flying Whales airship project and is already preparing to write another check in a few months, though the number of jobs promised is vague to say the least.

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“There will probably be another round of funding […] in maybe nine months,” said Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon in a telephone interview The newspaper.

Last week, Quebec announced a €25 million ($33.5 million) investment in Flying Whales’ parent company based in France and €15 million ($20 million) in its Quebec subsidiary.

First investment in 2019

These sums come on top of the €15 million invested by the government in Flying Whales’ parent company at the end of 2019 ($22 million at the exchange rate at the time).

Additionally, Quebec then agreed to invest 5 million euros ($7.3 million) in the Quebec subsidiary, but those funds were never disbursed due to a dispute with the federal government.

the Chinese out of the picture

Ottawa did not want the Chinese shareholder of Flying Whales’ parent company, state-owned AVIC, on national security grounds. Last fall, French investors bought AVIC’s stake, finally allowing the Quebec subsidiary to see the light of day.

As a result, Quebec taxpayers have invested nearly $74 million in Flying Whales since 2019. Mr. Fitzgibbon did not specify how much Quebec expects to put back into the project next year.

Flying Whales wants to revolutionize the transport of heavy loads to remote locations with its LCA60T aircraft, an airship with a lifting capacity of 60 tons.

Other Flying Whales shareholders, including French companies Air Liquide and ADP (Aeroports of Paris), have also reinvested in the company, while the French State, the Principality of Monaco and Société Générale have bought into its capital.

Vague job promises

The government press release cited the creation or preservation of “a hundred jobs” in Quebec thanks to Flying Whales. However, Mr Fitzgibbon was unable to provide further details on these positions.

“In the short term there will not necessarily be many jobs at Flying Whales Quebec as more employees from Quebec companies will be taking part in the project,” the minister said. The only known local partner for now is Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Given the economic benefits, even if the project fails, Quebec’s investment will emerge as a winner, Pierre Fitzgibbon assured.

“Will the device fly in two years? Of course there are always risks. We felt the risk was worth it. It’s part of our strategy in aviation: we have risky projects that we have to do,” he explained.

Flying Whales did not respond to inquiries from the protocol.

FLYING WHALES COMING SOON

  • Founding of the company: 2012
  • CHAIRMAN: Sebastian Bougon
  • Quebec’s contribution to the airship project: Hybrid propulsion system, avionics and crew cabin
  • First certification flights: 2025 or 2026

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