Denel’s aerospace and aviation divisions face future with confidence


Partnerships are central to the continued success of the two major aerospace players in the State-owned defence industry conglomerate Denel.

Both Mike Kgobe, chief executive of Denel Aviation, and his counterpart at Denel Aerostructures (DAe), Ismail Dockrat, emphasised the importance of allegiances, partnerships, joint ventures and teaming during a media briefing at the Denel Kempton Park campus.

Examples include the tie-up with Lockheed Martin which has seen Denel Aviation earn the sought after MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) certification from the American manufacturer of C-130 airlifters; an agreement with Russian Helicopters for the same services on Mi and Kamov helicopters in Africa as well as a teaming agreement with Eurocopter. This has seen an increasing number of Puma, Super Puma as well as locally in service Oryx and Rooivalk rotary-winged aircraft coming to Denel Aviation’s pristine Kempton park hangars and workshops for repairs and upgrades.

The same is true for Dockrat’s operation. It is currently contracted to Airbus Military for three work packages on the A-400M and is also supplying Gulfstream with empennage assemblies for its G150 business jet.

High tech is what it is all about at DAe with massive billets of aluminium being worked and reworked on state-of-the-art machinery to exacting specifications set by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In one example a 20kg billet is turned into a component with a mass of just on nine kilogrammes.

The same applies in its autoclaves where bonding of various components to provide finished product of the exceptionally high quality demanded by the international aerospace sector in its never-ending quest to make components weigh less while improving structural and other qualities.

The same exacting standards are applied to the different A-400M packages. DAe is responsible for the wing-to-fuselage fairing, top shell and ribs, spars and swords of the tail of the massive airlifter.

The technology and people to build these high tech components as well as those working at Denel Aviation are all in place and running smoothly but both men are adamant they have to contribute to increasing the skills pool in their specific sectors of operation.

A core component here is the Denel Training Academy on the Kempton Park campus. This is where aspiring aerospace engineers, fitters and other disciplines are taught. Classroom learning is complemented by on-the-job training.

Taking Denel’s involvement in aerospace further the company has also committed itself to the Ekurhuleni metro’s aerotropolis plan. This will see OT Tambo International Airport become the hub of a massive development providing the A to Z of services for the aviation sector.
“Aerospace and aviation have strong multiplier effects on surrounding economies. Each job in the industry creates at least four others downstream in the economy. It also generates growth in niche industries in the manufacturing sectors – many of them small and medium-sized enterprises – and strengthens the country’s advanced technology capacity and human capital base,” is how Kgobe sees Denel fitting into the aerotropolis.

An upbeat Dockrat maintains “targeted investment in the aerospace industry will lead to a surge in the country’s manufacturing sector. This has immense potential to stimulate innovation, create employment and become a force for wealth creation”.

Both are quietly confident the Denel Kempton Park campus can become the core of a future aerospace hub for Africa.