Turbomeca Africa nearing capacity as post-recession recovery continues


Turbomeca Africa will nearly reach maximum capacity with its helicopter engine maintenance, repair and overhaul facility as it marks its tenth year of operation. The company has come a long way since its establishment in 2002, from making a loss to making a healthy profit.

Turbomeca Africa on Friday celebrated its ten-year anniversary at its facility in Bonaero Park next to O R Tambo International Airport. The company is 51% owned by the Turbomeca group (part of Safran) and 49% owned by Denel.

Olivier Andries, Turbomeca Group Chairman and CEO, told guests during celebrations that the company was not only celebrating an anniversary but also an African success story. He said that in ten years Turbomeca Africa has grown to be a force to be reckoned with regarding MRO and component manufacture.

Andries said that Turbomeca has claimed 75% of the military turbine market in southern Africa and 35% of the civilian market and had 700 flying engines in service in the region.
“There have been good times and bad times. We still have to work hard to ensure on-time delivery,” which is one of Turbomeca Africa’s targets, he said. “Our objectives are ambitious but achievable”.
“I have visited many Turbomeca sites around the world and can confirm that Turbomeca Africa is a benchmark,” Andries said. “I have been impressed by the equality of the partnership with Denel.”

Turbomeca Africa was set up in 2002 following the September 1999 order for 30 AgustaWestland A109 Light Utility Helicopters for the South African Air Force (SAAF). These are powered by the Arrius 2K2 engine, of which Turbomeca is the exclusive supplier. Turbomeca Africa now manufactures Arrius spare parts for the overseas market.

Deon Craffert, Sales Manager at Turbomeca Africa, said that the company “started off with real challenges,” as the numbers weren’t right and expenses were too high. The factory took up 52 000 square metres of space, which was unnecessary, and today only takes up 16 000 square metres while producing double the turnover with 60% of the original manpower.

Craffert told defenceWeb that the company reached a peak in 2008/2009, but then activity on the factory floor dipped during the recession and production halved due to fewer orders. However, the company managed to build up again. “The manufacturing side was under threat. Now we’re ramping up,” he said, adding that, “things are looking up.”

Turbomeca Africa’s two core business areas are the manufacture of aircraft gearboxes and the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of helicopter engines. About a third of the company’s activities involve manufacturing gearboxes while two thirds are concerned with MRO activities.

The company produces between six and eight complete gearboxes for Rolls Royce, its biggest customer, every month. Another large customer is the Safran group.

Turbomeca Africa has the capability to manufacture gears and shafts (spur, helical or spiral-bevel), assemble gearboxes and manufacture gearbox casings (magnesium or aluminium). It is industrialising gears for the gearbox of the CFM International Leap engine, which is an option to power the A320Neo.

Its MRO facility is able to repair parts for and repair and overhaul Makila, Turmo and Arrius engines. It also has engine test facilities for these three engines. The company has almost reached its MRO capacity and is scheduled to work on nearly 200 engines this year. Most of its customers are foreign (China, Oman, Saudi Arabia etc.).

Otto Schur, Group Executive, Technical, at Denel said that the joint venture with Turbomeca Africa was an example of successful industrial partnership. “I’m very proud to say that Denel is proud to be associated with such a partnership,” he said, adding that the government wants to support companies like Turbomeca Africa. “A lot of industrial ability was lost during the uncertain period of our history but is coming back with IPAP [Industrial Policy Action Plan] and other initiatives.”

Zoli Kunene, Chairman of the Denel Board, said that Turbomeca Africa has its roots firmly in South Africa. He added that Denel was proud to be associated with the company, which has contributed hundreds of direct jobs to the local economy. “The first ten years of the relationship between Turbomeca Africa and Denel has continued to raise the standard in the industry.”
“We are grateful in the investment Turbomeca has made in our country,” said Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Public Enterprises, as South Africa “needs lots of foreign direct investments to create skilled jobs and address poverty, unemployment and inequality.”