Thanks to my sharp-eyed, French-speaking colleague Aimee Turner, we now know that Connecticut-based Hamilton Sundstrand has moved its entire propeller business off-shore — and to France, of all places.
Perhaps not surprisingly, you won’t find a press release announcing the outsourcing move that affects about 100 US jobs on Hamilton’s web site. Flight magazine’s Aimee Turner, who is based in London, found out by reading a French language email sent by Hamilton’s French subsidiary — Ratier Figeac, the lucky beneficiary of Hamilton’s 80-year-old heritage in the propeller business. Aimee’s news story in this week’s magazine is the only place you’re likely to read about this truly historic aviation milestone in English.
Hamilton’s propellers powered Charles Lindbergh’s Ryan monoplane across the Atlantic in 1927, not to mention nearly all the fighter planes built in US factories for World War II. The company still is at the forefront of the technology, with the six-bladed NP2000 propeller powering Snow Aviation’s refurbished C-130s and the Northrop Grumman E-2C, as well as a new, 8-bladed turboprop destined for the Airbus A400M transport.
That entire historical and technical legacy now resides with Ratier-Figeac in Southern France. Why? Most likely, it’s because Hamilton Sundstrand realizes that’s where the market exists for turboprop transports, with Sweden’s Saab Aircraft, Italy’s ATR and Spain’s EADS CASA division now among the technological leaders.
If my hunch is correct, Hamilton’s logic mirrors the recent trend by European firms to move wholesale manufacturing of helicopters and military transports to the US. And don’t forget Airbus. I struggle to believe the proposed Airbus factory in Mobile, Alabama is intended solely for assembling 12 tankers a year for the US Air Force, especially when the company admits the facility will be sized to build 20 aircraft — and with room to grow! In 10 years, Airbus will need to build a successor for the single-aisle A320, and sunny Toulouse may be no match for the non-unionized labor climate of the southeast USA.
“We’ll always have Paris”(Source: DOD)