SMES – the backbone of UK aerospace
By Graham Chisnall, managing director, Commercial Aerospace & Operations, A|D|S
Despite the economic downturn, exhibition space at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow is sold out of exhibition space and promises to be yet again a showcase for the UK’s leading advanced manufacturing sectors of aerospace, defence, space and security – with the Airbus A400M and Boeing 787 Dreamliner both taking centre stage. Together these four sectors employ over half a million people in 9,000 companies, contributing £60bn (~$90bn) a year to the British economy.
For the first time in the history of the show, all the UK aerospace regional bodies will be located in Hall 1. This demonstrates the strength of the supply chain in the UK and the diversity of the UK’s SME community which is the foundation of the UK’s position as number one in Europe and only second to the USA in aerospace and defence.
Every single large aerospace or defence equipment contract is underpinned by the hard work of hundreds of SMEs.
For example, the UK has more SMEs than France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Norway put together in defence alone, so it is easy to understand why they form the very backbone of the industry in this country.
The Farnborough International Airshow, itself a world-leading event, is an opportunity to showcase these best of British qualities to the world, alongside our global partners that we welcome to the UK year-on-year. All of us at A|D|S look forward to promoting these innovative and world beating companies in what is undeniably one of the busiest global trade shows.
Farnborough – the greatest Show on Earth
The world’s biggest open air trade show returns to its biennual UK-base, having spent much of last June in Le Bourget Airport near Paris. The 2010 International Airshow hosts 1,356 exhibiting companies to date, 37 fewer than in 2008 when the show was last in the UK, but the exhibitors will occupy the same physical footprint as that in 2008. Show organisers FIA say that 65%-70% of the exhibitors are involved in manufacturing in some way.
The lower numbers this year is partly explained by industry consolidation. SMEs, so important to UK aerospace, have been through tough times. Many of them also supply parts to the automotive sector, which has suffered badly until more recently, but better stability in that sector now bodes well for SMEs working in both aerospace and automotive.
Overall, the aerospace sector has survived the recession well, and A|D|S, the industry’s trade association, says this is mainly due to UK aerospace learning from experiences in previous downturns to make itself leaner and more robust.
The primes and tier one companies have survived very well, with delivery rates stable and recently even increasing – recently both Airbus and Boeing have announced increases in their rates of production for narrow bodies. The two biggest aircraft on display are largely made in the UK; 25% of the value of a Boeing Dreamliner is made in the UK and 50% by value of the Airbus A380 (both when fitted with Rolls-Royce engines). See the interview with Brian Fleet in the main feature section.
A selection of companies exhibiting at the Show, featured below, give their own reasons to be cheerful and Graham Chisnall, managing director of Commercial Aerospace & Operations at A|D|S, provides a positive foreword to this Show preview round-up (see top).
Making survival its business – Aero Sekur
The safety equipment maker Aero Sekur, specialists in safety systems and advanced flexible structures, returns to Farnborough in 2010. The company will highlight its flotation and external life-raft system capability and reveals a new concept in shock absorption/flotation systems.
The theme for the Air Show will be an integrated package for ‘survivability’. One design initiative on show is a shock absorption system to increase the survival level of helicopter crews in the event of forced landing, either on land or water. This new development for the aviation industry complements Aero Sekur’s liferaft system that ensures that crews survive both crash landings and any ensuing wait for rescue services.
Aero Sekur’s Non Pyrotechnic Inflation System (N.P.I.S.), as used by leading helicopter manufacturers will also feature. The company, an Anglo-Italian firm based at Farnborough, has continued to grow across the aviation, space and defence industries. This diverse market strategy gives business stability and enables transfer of technologies between specialist areas.
Aero Sekur’s CEO, Mark Butler, says: “We are continuing steady growth into the international market with activity well under way in Asia and USA. Earlier this year we established a working collaboration in India, supported by a presence at the A|D|S office in Bangalore”.
In 2009 the company looked at developing a manufacturing facility in Oxfordshire, but now it is looking at other expansion opportunities. “The European markets remain important to Aero Sekur and we are currently consolidating our UK interests into a combined manufacturing and administration facility,” says Butler. “Europe’s aerospace market has clearly been hit by the economic downturn but I share the industry optimism that recovery will be rapid.” Customers, press and political delegations are invited to visit Aero Sekur on Hall 4, stand B8.
Engineering students are welcome on family days, when career advice will be offered by student peers.
Dreamliner shows off its UK provenance – Boeing
The super-jumbo jet builder When the Boeing 787 Dreamliner touches down at Farnborough for the 2010 Airshow, many of the UK-based companies that have contributed to the development of the all new aircraft will come together to celebrate their achievements.
Big parts of the UK’s aerospace community including GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce, Messier-Dowty, Cobham, GKN, Ultra Electronics, Eaton Aerospace, Claverham, QinetiQ and the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) have all played a key role in this global collaborative programme.
The flight test pilots will be sitting on seats manufactured by the IPECO Group in Southend-on-Sea.
The flight deck seats, of which there are three designs for pilots, co-pilots and crew, have been put through a programme of stringent testing to make certain that they meet industry requirements for safety, and those of the pilots who will ultimately be using them.
The aircraft will land using an undercarriage manufactured in the UK by Messier-Dowty of Gloucester.
The Dreamliner is the first to use an advanced titanium alloy for this structure, which was greatly helped by research conducted at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at Sheffield University, a facility established with Boeing’s sponsorship. Materials science researchers at the AMRC worked for over 18 months with engineers at Messier-Dowty to develop the optimum machining processes to be used in the manufacture of the landing gear.
Eaton Aerospace has designed, developed and manufactured the fuel subsystem pumps that deliver fuel to the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
The engines, built in Derby, contribute to the fuel efficiency of the aircraft while considerably reducing the engine’s noise on the ground. “On a Rolls-Royce powered Boeing 787, over 25% of the aircraft by value has been manufactured in the UK,” says Nick West, communications director at Boeing UK.
“The 787 programme is creating news skills and generating new manufacturing and maintenance processes that overall will provide a multi-billion pound benefit to the UK.”
Acquisitive Drallim buzzing about growth prospects
The versatile SME Drallim’s Aerospace Division goes back 50 years, with the “Cargo Aids” brand of equipment serving military and civil aviation.
Today the company offers an extended range of products and services including cargo handling equipment, chain lashing, webbing and strapping solutions, quick release couplings, cables, control rods, seat tube and floor pan fittings. The new ‘HAWK’ hook has just launched with loadings of up to 4,500kg.
Following the acquisition last year of Likeprod Engineers, the company now offers a broad range of ground support equipment, custom-manufactured for very specific requirements. In May this year Drallim acquired Horsell Electrics, who manufactures commercial lighting and already supplies airport terminal lighting.
“We can expect new aviationfocused products to appear in the near future,” says Drallim’s managing director Dave Mooney.
Drallim Aerospace is an industry-approved manufacturing company with exceptional QA standards and offers manufacturing and maintenance services under EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) approvals, covering EASA Part 21/ EASA Part 145, and design services under AS9100.
It focuses on the challenges of making custom applications and re-engineering projects, solving unusual, obsolescence-related and Urgent Operational Requirement problems.
“We see the Farnborough Airshow as an excellent opportunity to launch the formation of the Drallim Aerospace Division which marks another step forward in our growth plans,” says Mooney. “We will demonstrate that we are innovative, professional engineers offering quality niche solutions and that Drallim is a modern, flexible, responsive manufacturing business that has grown steadily through the recession by offering exactly what our customers want, made in the UK and at a sensible price point.”
Drallim Industries is in Hall 4, stand FT18
Dunlop Aircraft Tyres expands East and West
The tyre maker and retreader Dunlop Aircraft Tyres, the world’s only specialist aircraft tyre manufacturer, is using the Farnborough International Airshow 2010 to celebrate its centenary and launch its first products for the ATR42 and 72 turboprop aircraft.
More than 880 ATR aircraft have been delivered to date and the strengthening of the company’s position in the regional airliner sector with these products is the latest in several expansions at the Birmingham-based manufacturer. These have included the opening of a new distribution and retreading facility in China in November 2009, and investment in new testing and production equipment.
The facility in China operates as Dunlop Taikoo (Jinjiang) Aircraft Tyres Company Ltd, and is a joint venture with Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd (HAECO) and Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (TAECO). Based in Jinjiang, Fujian Province, the operation has site and product approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and repair-station approval from EASA.
The China plant is already enabling the company to compete effectively in Asia-Pacific and is attracting interest from regional airlines. Mandarin Airlines became the first company to sign up, with a threeyear contract to support the Taipei-based carrier’s fleet of eight E-190/195s.
Back at home, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres has fortified its place in the global aircraft tyre marketplace with the acquisition of testing and aircraft tyre manufacturing equipment from the Yokohama Rubber Company. In 2009, Yokohama, which has a strong reputation in Japan for radial and bias aircraft tyres, announced that it was withdrawing the Yokohama brand name from the aircraft tyre sector.
Dunlop Aircraft Tyres acquired Yokohama’s new tyre manufacturing and testing equipment in February, which is being delivered now (late June). The move will improve Dunlop’s manufacturing capacity and further increase its range with new products such as radial main tyres for the Boeing 777.
Dunlop Aircraft Tyres is exhibiting in Hall 4, stand C14.
A composite approach — Marshall Aerospace
When Paul Knight, head of business development, joined Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace, it was considering whether to develop a composites capability internally or acquire a business.
Several factors meant an acquisition made more sense, including cost of new plant, time-to-market, and latent intellectual property. “We employ many design engineers, some with limited experience of composite structures. We could tick the theoretical box, but we couldn’t tick the manufacturing engineering box,” says Knight.
Paul helped to identify Slingsby Advanced Composites as the best candidate. Marshall Aerospace was very interested in the company’s capabilities and particularly their work in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market. Slingsby had built the entire airframe structure for the BAE Systems Herti UAV, as well as the wings and T-tail for the Mantis UAV. “It was not only a good fit from a markets & technology perspective, but also from a corporate values point of view,” says Knight. Slingsby was turning over about £10m, was profitable and the acquisition completed in December 2009.
Marshall Aerospace is developing a new auxiliary fuel tank (AFT) system, which will incorporate some of Marshall Slingsby’s composite capabilities. “If the study is successful, it will become an integral part of our future supply chain of AFT systems,” says Knight. The acquisition has allowed Marshall to access new markets, so the composite element of the new generation of tanks could provide a new lightweight range extension for future long range VIP aircraft. Marshall was recently awarded their first contract with Airbus for these AFTs, where normally it had provided them exclusively to Boeing.
Firth Rixson’s growth curve goes Stateside
The rings and forgings specialist Firth Rixson Limited is a leading provider of highly engineered rings, forgings and specialist metal products for the aerospace market.
The company is renowned for being the world’s largest aerospace ring manufacturer, a market leader in the <20,000 Ib aero-engine discs sector and also a provider of cast and wrought superalloy solutions worldwide. Firth Rixson supplies to aero-engine and airframe OEMs and their subcontractors in more than 40 countries. Substantial growth is evident through acquisitions in the USA and UK, growing operations in Continental Europe and China, and a new closed die forging facility under construction in Savannah, Georgia.
The new site, Firth Rixson Forgings LLC, Georgia, is the most significant expansion in the company’s history, with the construction of a 200,000 square foot closed die forging operation. As an addition to the three closed die forgings facilities already established, the new site will produce turbine discs for both narrow and wide body aircrafts, as well as major military engine platforms.
With financial strength from the ownership of the private equity firm, Oak Hill Capital Partners, strong management and significant acquisitions, Firth Rixson continues to succeed in an expanding global economy.
Getting you home when all else fails – Meggitt Avionics
The avionics specialist Meggitt Avionics has recently expanded its comprehensive range of 3-inch cockpit instruments, which provide pilots of civil and military aircraft with all the information required to fly the aircraft in the event of a primary instrument system failure.
The integrated Secondary Flight display entered service in 2010, has proved very successful and is the third generation of Meggitt Avionics’ wholly solid state product family, with which the company shook up the avionics the market in 1990.
In designing this new product, the company took into consideration several key features requested by customers along with ease of manufacture and inservice support.
From the outset, lean manufacturing and minimal parts count were designed into the products to achieve strict target weight, power, material cost and build parameters. This, says Stephen Fletcher, sales manager for Asia-Pacific, has resulted in an instrument which has proved highly attractive to existing and new customers.
Long term agreements with key suppliers have also proved effective in controlling costs from the start and, more importantly, providing cost-base stability in the medium to long term.
Rigorous design process means that the integrated Secondary Flight Display is shorter, lighter and, in service, Meggitt claims, more cost-effective than the current generation of flight instruments. This has led to selection on rotary wing, business and military combat training aircraft worldwide. “The biggest potential for the instrument is the export market and Meggitt Avionics expects significant growth in offshore sales,” says Fletcher.
Meggitt Avionics’ existing range of instruments display flight, engine and threat information to pilots, in addition to air data measurement instruments in international service.
Meggitt has a chalet at Farnborough this year, and will be on show in row C, stands 13 – 14
ISO recognises Isle of Man’s strength in numbers – IOMAC
The engineering consortium The Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster (IOMAC) is part of the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) and comprises 16 companies, providing a framework for facilitating collaboration between the Island’s high-tech and aerospace organisations.
IOMAC are exhibiting within the NWAA stand at the Farnborough International Airshow, and is the first time the IOMAC has attended the event. Cluster members Bladon Jet, Tritec Tools and Target Aerospace, plus the Isle of Man Government, will be on hand to discuss the Cluster’s ‘one stop shop’ proposition for design and manufactured solutions.
The Cluster’s launch in 2007 has proven mutually beneficial for members and their customers.
For example, IOMAC has played an important role in the development of the UK’s aerospace supply chain, working on big global projects for Airbus, Boeing and BAE Systems.
Target Aerospace Director, Simon Radcliffe, is enthusiastic about IOMAC. “Our aim was to provide a local, high quality service to the Island’s aerospace customers, applying the latest technologies and reacting quickly to the sector’s changing demands,” he says.
“We now have the expertise and experience to compete with any company in the UK.” Director of Tritec, Steve Riding, says: “Our membership of IOMAC has enabled us to implement a bold investment plan that has shifted our core activity away from toolmaking towards the manufacture of precision components for our aerospace customers. With the support of the Isle of Man Government and working closely with our customers within the Cluster, we also gained accreditation to EN9100:2003 and ISO900:2000 in 2008.”