Good year for Airbus means steady work for South African partners


Airbus says 2011 will be a good year for the global planemaker, which will translate into a steady flow of sustainable work for its South African partners.

“2010 was a good year, in fact better than expected twelve months ago. The market rebound and improved programme performance has been particularly encouraging,” said Tom Enders, Airbus chairman and chief executive officer.

Linden Birns, spokesman for Airbus sub-Saharan Africa told defenceWeb that “Airbus expects 2011 to be an even better year. Our order book backlog now stands at 3,552 aircraft worth over $480 billion. This equates to six years of production at current rates and should provide stability for our partners and suppliers around the world, including Aerosud, Denel-Saab Aerostructures and Cobham-Omnipless in South Africa”.

In September last year Airbus announced it was committing over R4 billion to industrial and related activity in South Africa over the next 10 years. Of that, R500 million was for work related to the upcoming A350. Aerosud, Cobham-Omnipless and Denel-Saab Aerostructures (DSA) are the main beneficiaries.

Birns adds Airbus’ performance translates into further work for its South African partners, with further positive benefits up and down their respective supply chains, “In fact, the benefit ripple spread extends to jobs, skills, technology, additional export revenues from local manufacturing and a positive impact on South Africa’s GDP,” he says.

South Africa is Airbus’s biggest joint venture partner in Africa, with Tunisia and Morocco coming in behind. Denel-Saab Aerostructures (DSA) and Aerosud are the only companies outside of Europe that manufacture sections for the A400M.

The troubled A400M transport is getting back on track, and is to receive its civil airworthiness certificate by the end of the year. A fourth A400M has joined the flight test programme and series production is imminent.

Denel-Saab Aerostructures (DSA) manufactures wing to fuselage fairings for the A400M as well as the centre fuselage top shells that fit in front of and behind the wing box, which joins the wing to the fuselage. DSA had previously manufactured spars and ribs for the vertical fin, but these work packages were taken away in May 2010 as Airbus shifted A400M workshare to European countries hungry for work after putting in additional funding for the aircraft. Aerosud manufactures wingtips, fuselage and cockpit lining as well as the galleys for the airlifter. The companies will ramp up their A400M-related activity in line with the start of series production on the aircraft. South Africa had ordered eight A400Ms but cancelled them in 2009. 170 A400Ms are on order from six nations, down from 177 after Germany cut seven aircraft from its order books.

Regarding Airbus’s other military aircraft, it signed orders for 21 CN235 and C295 aircraft in the transport and maritime patrol/anti-submarine roles during 2010. The South African Air Force operates a small number of C212 and CN235 aircraft.

Airbus says commercial aircraft production increased to a record 510 units in 2010, up from 498 the previous year. This figure includes 401 A320 Family aircraft, 91 A330/A340s and 18 A380s. In contrast, Boeing delivered 462 aircraft last year. Aircraft production set a new company record for the ninth year in a row, Airbus said. As a result of increased demand, Airbus earlier this month announced a price increase of 4.4% for its aircraft.

A total of 644 commercial aircraft were ordered last year 2010 (574 net), with a value of $84 billion ($74 billion net) at list/catalogue prices. This includes 452 A320 Family aircraft, 160 A330/A340/A350XWB and 32 A380s. Boeing, on the other hand, won 530 orders in 2010.

South African companies will continue to benefit from these orders. Aerosud supplies a variety of components for the A320 series, which Airbus currently delivers at a rate of 38 aircraft a month – this will be increasing to 40 a month this year. The Centurion-based company is the exclusive supplier of A320 flap-track cans (housings) and also manufactures the A320 avionics bay racks and sheet metal parts for the wings, as well as supplying parts for other Airbus aircraft like the A350. Cape Town-based Cobham-Omnipless will benefit as it supplies satellite communications antennae for Airbus jetliners.

The continued Airbus-related manufacturing activity supports the South African government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2), which identifies Aerospace as a strategic industry for development.
“Airbus has always had a unique relationship with South Africa,” Birns says. SAA was one of the first airlines to operate Airbus planes and will soon take delivery of a new fleet of A330-200s. In parallel, Airbus has been forming partnerships, joint ventures and various relationships with South Africa.” This includes research and development, design engineering and manufacturing of components and sub-assemblies for civil and military aircraft.