Kaman looks for fivefold growth

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Restructuring aims to achieve revenue goal within 10 years

US manufacturer Kaman Aerospace aims to quintuple its aerostructures work within a decade as it disposes of the last of its inventory of K-Max utility helicopters.

Kaman Aerospace, part of the Kaman helicopter, musical instrument and industrial technology conglomerate, recently completed a restructuring process that saw the creation of separate divisions for aerostructures, helicopter manufacturing and fuzing.

The restructured company has created three North American and two European prime-contractor liaison offices in a bid to raise aerospace subcontract and manufacturing services annual revenues to $250 million from today's $50 million within 10 years, says Bill Brown, Kaman Aerospace vice-president for business development, aerostructures division.

"We have identified where we wanted to be and made the changes we needed to make in order to get there," he says.

Kaman Aerospace recently completed moving its facilities from Bloomfield, Connecticut, to Jacksonville, Florida, six months behind its original schedule. Brown says the slippage was due to a "steeper than anticipated learning curve".

The company recorded a loss of $400,000 for the first six months of this year and remains in dispute with MD Helicopters (MDHI), for which it produced fuselages for MD500 and 600 series helicopters and composite rotor blades for the MD Explorer under a 15-year contract. Kaman says it has invested over $16 million for the contract and is also owed about $4.2 million from MDHI. It says "progress has been made" since it stopped production of MDHI parts in the second quarter of last year.

The company says that European subcontracts have been identified as a crucial part of its growth strategy, with a defined goal of about $20 million worth of deals within three years.

Kaman admits its experience of the European aerospace industry is limited, with Boeing 757 panels constructed for Alenia Aeronautica its largest value contract to date. "We are not a brand name in Europe, except for our helicopters," says Russ Jones, senior vice-president of Kaman.

The move comes as the company disposes of the last of its inventory of four remaining K-Max external-lift helicopters, following last month's delivery of two additional helicopters to largest K-Max operator Superior Helicopter of Grants Pass, Oregon, and one aircraft each to Delano, California-based San Joaquin Helicopters and Prineville, Oregon-based Grizzly Mountain Aviation.

Jones says the company will retain the K-Max production line and could restart manufacture if there are sufficient orders. Kaman Aerospace says it will also "seek additional opportunities" for its SH-2G Super Seasprite naval helicopter.

JUSTIN WASTNAGE / LONDON