Safran CEO Béchat: Airbus A380 delay ‘a relief’ to suppliers

Paris
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By Murdo Morrison in Paris

Delays on Airbus programmes may come as a “relief” to suppliers struggling to meet accelerating airliner production rates, says Safran president and chief executive Jean-Paul Béchat.

“Coping with capacity” is the biggest issue facing his company, a merger of Snecma and Sagem last year. “Our huge challenge is to cope with the production rate, getting forgings from industry and nickel alloys,” he says. “For us any slow-down in the ramp-up would be a relief.”

In an interview with Flight International last week, Béchat said the “big fuss over A380 [delays] is quite a surprise”, adding: “Any big revolutionary product is bound to have problems. Airbus has problems, but it is not doomsday. This is an aircraft that will be around for 30 years.”

Safran is a major supplier to Airbus and Boeing and offers, with General Electric, the CFM International CFM56 engine for the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which has notched up more than 1,000 orders this year.

Béchat says Safran learned the lessons of the downturn following the last-but-one order boom in the late 1980s when, as Snecma, it was “stuck with lots of labour problems because management had been too optimistic”. He says: “When I took this job, I said never again. So for the ramp-up at the end of the 1990s, we spread the risk to a large number of partners. When 9/11 happened, all of us had to decrease production rates, but not in a way that was critical.”