The start of series production of the A400M, which has its fAL in Seville, represents the definitive consolidation of the project for this new military airlifter by EADS involving participation by various Andalusian firms. Achievement of this milestone reinforces Andalusia’s status as Europe’s third aeronautical hub and also reflects the significant role the region has in other important programs for the A350, the A380 and the A330 MRTT. In the future, the focus will be on diversification of services and products to increase collaboration with other international manufacturers such as Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier
The start of series production and industrial launch of the world's most technologically advanced military airlifter, the A400M, has firmly consolidated Andalusia’s presence in major international industrial programs, particularly for projects by the European group EADS, which is the main source of work for companies in the auxiliary industry and tier-one suppliers in our region. Finally, after two years of intense negotiations and meetings between Airbus Military and the customer nations of OCCAR (Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation) a definitive agreement has been reached to finance the additional costs of the A400M, mainly resulting from problems with the aircraft’s engines. Although this agreement was finalized in March 2010, it was not ratified until April 7, 2011 in Seville following the signing of the amended agreement by Airbus Military CEO Domingo Ureña and the Director of OCCAR, Patrick Bellouard, in the presence of the Spanish Minister of Defense, Carme Chacón. This momentous agreement reached in the Andalusian capital reaffirms the important role that the Andalusian sector has assumed in the European manufacturer’s flagship projects and its consideration as the third aeronautical hub in Europe after Toulouse and Hamburg. The industrial launch of the A400M is a major achievement which dissipates any doubts regarding the new aircraft and guarantees the workload for Andalusian and Spanish firms involved in its manufacture. nonetheless, while the world economic situation for the sector appears to be picking up, the possibility still exists of further complications for other Airbus projects. For example, the A350 program is currently suffering industrial delays. This could complicate matters for the major work package by the Andalusian company Alestis Aerospace, which in turn involves participation by other companies in the Andalusian auxiliary industry. Last May 13, EADS CEO Louis Gallois said that “while advancing with the A350XWB through achieving several critical milestones, with its largest carbon fiber fuselage panel completed, this decisive program continues to require our closest attention.” The company declared that the start of final assembly is still slated for the end of this year, while entry in service is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.
However, the program continues to pose a challenge. What does seem clear is that, despite any possible delay the program may suffer, the EADS Group has significantly improved its financial situation in 2010 following the losses suffered the year before, with an improvement in the expected earnings and number of deliveries in the coming months for EADS, the main supplier of work for Andalusian firms. This improvement is largely due to the successful refinancing of the A400M program, which has also stabilized the European manufacturer’s accounts. The results for Airbus Military in the first quarter of the year indicate that the program has recovered and has started to generate earnings again, with sales lifting by 13% in the period from January to March to 434 million euros. This was driven by A400M revenue recognition of 165 million euros, compared to zero euros for the same period in 2010, the most difficult moment of the negotiations between the customer nations and EADS. The definitive agreement valued at 11 billion euros includes a direct contribution of 2 billion euros by the customer nations for the initial contract price and an additional contribution of 1.5 billion euros together with the waiver of penalty fees relating to program delays in exchange for a share in export sales of the first 300 A400M aircraft. The new agreement includes a reduction of the initial order by 10 aircraft which will be distributed between Germany (7) and the United Kingdom (3). Accordingly, of the 180 A400M aircraft initially agreed by the seven customer nations, 170 will now be built in addition to a further four aircraft to be purchased by Malaysia. Spain will contribute 225 million euros of the additional 1.5 billion euros to be paid by the customer nations in exchange for a share of future export sales. The contributions made by each country are based on the number of aircraft ordered, with Spain placing an order for 27. Airbus Military highlighted that its plant at San Pablo in Seville will have the capacity to manufacture 33 aircraft per year working double shifts when it reaches peak output in 2016.
The first four aircraft will be built in 2012, gradually increasing to a rate of 2.5 aircraft per month until late 2015. The company has confirmed that the first customer to receive the aircraft will be the French Air Force in late 2012 or early 2013. The guaranteed continuity of the A400M also consolidates the role of Andalusian companies participating directly in the development of this aircraft. The FAL has involved an investment of nearly 400 million euros and it generates direct subcontracting worth 118 million euros for the region’s auxiliary industry. This figure may reach 600 million euros according to forecasts for the program, which in employment terms represents 260 direct and stable jobs in the industry. The FAL in Seville will directly employ more than 450 workers when it is fully functioning, in addition to the more than 1,000 employees who are currently working at its facilities. Turning to the European and Spanish employment figures, the program accounts for a massive 40,000 and 7,600 jobs respectively. The relaunch of the A400M not only ensures the workload for the next 20 years of a significant group of Andalusian companies such as Aerosur, Alestis, Aertec, CESA, Consur, Easy Industrial Solutions, Elimco, navair, Grupo Sevilla Control, Sofitec, STSA, Airgrup, Galvatec, MDU and TADA. More importantly, this major project provides backing for the Andalusian industry in order to continue developing its competitiveness and capacity and enable it to opt for further international contracts in the sector.
After overcoming the difficulties of the A400M, the next challenge is to get back on track with the other flagship project by EADS: The A350 program. Advances continue to be made following the start-up of production in november 2010, with the work focusing on the completion of the carbon fiber panels of the fuselage. However, it is not progressing at the rate expected or desired by those involved in this new aircraft designed to compete with the Boeing 787. Spain and Andalusia in particular have a key role in this civil aircraft.
The Airbus plant at Illescas (Toledo) is responsible for manufacturing the wings, while the Andalusian Tier-One company Alestis is carrying out other important work packages for the A350 such as the belly fairing and the tail cone. This package is particularly important for the Andalusian aeronautical sector, as the auxiliary industry is also benefiting through projects subcontracted to other companies in the region. The contracts awarded to Alestis for these two sections of the aircraft are worth 1.7 billion euros and have resulted in the creation of more than 1,200 direct jobs and over 4,000 indirect jobs throughout the course of the program, making it one of the largest orders ever received by the Andalusian aeronautical industry. That is why any possible incidents or further delays may have significant repercussions for the sector and for Alestis, as the company has already noted significantly the delays suffered to date, particularly in relation to its new plant built at Puerto Real (Cádiz) which is expected to carry out the final assembly of the different sections involved in the work package. According to Airbus, the start-up of the final assembly line for the A350 in Toulouse is slated for late 2011, with the flight tests in 2012 and entry in service by 2013.
Alestis has already delivered the first compatibility test tail cone assemblies for the A350, which are used to evaluate the geometry and rigidity of the structure and to verify its compatibility with the installation of the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and the additional systems located in this section of the aircraft. The assembly of these all-composite prototypes made using advanced technologies such as Automatic Fiber Placement was carried out in the Alestis plant at the Tecnobahía Technology Park in El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz), one of the most advanced automated composite plants in Europe. Apart from the tail cone, Alestis is also developing the belly fairing for the A350, which involves three different work packages: manufacture of the carbon fiber panels, the metallic structure and the systems. These parts are also manufactured in Alestis’ facilities, although many different Andalusian companies are also involved such as Ghenova, MDU, LTK and TEAMS. This latter company is responsible for the complete testing program for the materials, components and systems of the belly fairing and the tail cone.
Other aeronautical programs with a major Andalusian presence include the A380 and A330 MRTT. Both these programs, which are advancing according to the schedule established by EADS, have also significantly contributed to the growth of the region’s industry in recent years. In the case of the A380, production is stabilizing following rescheduling and Airbus is making considerable progress on the learning curve which is leading to an improvement in the aircraft’s gross margins. The European company made a total of 19 deliveries in 2010 as well as receiving another 32 new orders from different customers.
This positive note continued through to early this year, with the company delivering four A380s during the first quarter and receiving ten new orders to manufacture this model which is the largest commercial aircraft in the world. With a range of 15,300 km and a capacity of between 500 and 550 passengers, this superjumbo’s outstanding features grant the company added security in its bids for new orders on the international market, and the initial incidents and problems relating to its start-up are now a thing of the past. The different companies involved in the program are also breathing easier, including the Andalusian firms responsible for different work packages of the A380 such as Alestis, Grupo Sevilla Control, Inespasa, TADA, Aerosur, Sofitec, TEAMS and Galvatec, among others. The Airbus plant at Puerto Real (Cádiz) also carries out assembly of the horizontal tail plane (HTP). Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT tanker aircraft is another of the most important aeronautical projects for the Andalusian industry. Although Boeing was eventually chosen over EADS to renew the U.S. Air Force tanker fleet, the program has still become a world leader and deliveries continue to different countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The aircraft achieved civil and military certification in 2010 following an intense test flight campaign mainly using the aircraft destined for the British and Australian Air Forces. Meanwhile, in the early months of 2011 the first flights of the aircraft to be delivered to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were carried out.
Two aircraft have already passed all the technical tests and are ready to be delivered to Australia following the resolution of certain terms of the contract. One of the most significant Andalusian contributions to the A330 MRTT is the boom for the in-flight refueling system, which includes a “fly by wire” joystick-type control system designed by the company MDU. The installation and assembly of the complete system is performed by Airbus Military at the Tablada plant in Seville. This factory is responsible for the final fitting out of the hydraulic, electrical and mechanical systems of the boom, following which it will undergo functional tests to ensure its correct functioning. The plant has been adapted to enable work on two booms simultaneously. Other Andalusian companies also participating under the A330 MRTT program include Grupo Sevilla Control, Airgrup, Consur, Elimco, Easy Industrial Solutions, TADA, Aeropoxi and Mesurex Aeronautics. Mention must also be made of the work being carried out on Airbus Military’s classic military airlifters such as the C295 and Cn235, which involve participation by numerous Andalusian firms such as Alestis, Aerosur, Aertec, Elimco, navair, Intec-Air, Airgrup, MDU, Tecaer, Inespasa, Mecaprec and STSA. Airbus Military received a total of 21 orders for the Cn235 and C-295 models in 2010. Meanwhile, in the first quarter of this year it delivered three C295s to Mexico, Chile and Portugal, as well as signing a new contract for the Cn235 with Yemen.
However, Andalusian companies are not solely dependent upon the EADS Group and are increasingly diversifying their services and products to meet the demand of other international manufacturers, giving rise to new contracts in recent years for the development of different aircraft by Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer. The increase in the number of projects by Andalusian firms for Embraer is of particular importance.
Also arousing significant interest is the Brazilian company’s imminent establishment in the city of évora (Portugal), where it plans to open two plants for the manufacture of composite and metal structures in 2011 and 2013 respectively. These plants will focus on the manufacture of the Legacy 450 and 500 models, along with certain components of the KC390 military aircraft. This will open up new business opportunities for Andalusian companies in Latin America, some of which are already working on several of the programs by this Brazilian company which is a world leader for private jets. For example, in 2009 Alestis won the contracts for the manufacture of various composite parts of the Phenom 100, including the horizontal and vertical tail plane, the ailerons and part of the rear fuselage, and a further contract for components of the Phenom 300.
This Andalusian company is also participating in different work packages for the Legacy 450/500, ERJ 145, ERJ 170 and ERJ 190. Other firms with major involvement in projects by Embraer include Aernnova, Inespasa, Meupe, TADA and Mecanizados y Montajes Aeronáuticos, mainly in relation to the ERJ 145, ERJ 170 and ERJ 190 programs. Work is also being carried out by Andalusian firms such as Alestis, Aernnova, Ghenova, Inespasa and MP on models for Boeing, the leading American manufacturer and EADS’ main competitor at an international level. Meanwhile, the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier currently has various work packages being carried out mainly by TADA, Aernnova, Consur and Inespasa.