A project fully inflated thanks to nearly $74M in public funds

A project inflated to block thanks to nearly $74M in public funds

MISE À DAY

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

“There will probably be another round of funding […] in maybe nine months,” said the Minister of Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, during a telephone interview with Le Journal.

Last week, Quebec announced an investment of 25 million euros ($33.5 million) in the parent company of Flying Whales, based in France, and 15 million euros ($20 million) in its Quebec subsidiary. . 

First investment in 2019

These sums are in addition to the 15 million euros that the government had invested at the end of 2019 in the parent company of Flying Whales ($22 million at the exchange rate at the time). 

In addition, Quebec then agreed to inject 5 million euros ($7.3 million) into the Quebec subsidiary, but these funds were never disbursed due to a dispute with the federal government.

the Chinese out of the picture

For national security reasons, Ottawa considered the Chinese shareholder of the parent company of Flying Whales, the state enterprise AVIC, undesirable. Last fall, French investors bought out AVIC's stake, finally allowing the Quebec subsidiary to see the light of day.

Quebec taxpayers therefore invested nearly $74 million in Flying Whales since 2019. Mr. Fitzgibbon did not specify how much Quebec was likely to put back into the project next year.

Flying Whales aims to revolutionize the transport of heavy loads to remote locations with its device LCA60T, an airship with a payload capacity of 60 tons.

Other shareholders of Flying Whales, including the French companies Air Liquide and ADP (Aéroports de Paris), have also reinvested in the company while the French State, the Principality of Monaco and Société Générale have entered its capital.< /p>

Vague promises of jobs

The government's press release mentioned the creation or maintenance of “a hundred jobs” in Quebec thanks to Flying Whales. Mr. Fitzgibbon, however, could not provide further details on these positions.

“There will not necessarily be, in the short term, a large number of jobs in Flying Whales Quebec because it will be more employees of Quebec companies” who will participate in the project, indicated the Minister. For now, the only known local partner is Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Given the economic benefits, Quebec will come out a winner with its investment even if the project fails, assured Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“Will the device fly in two years? There are always risks that not, of course. We found that the risk was worth it. It's part of our strategy in aeronautics: we have risky projects that we have to do, ”he explained.

Flying Whales did not respond to requests from the Journal

FLYING WHALES AT A GLANCE

  • Company Foundation: 2012
  • CEO: Sébastien 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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