US nacelles specialist Rohr, recently acquired by BFGoodrich, has accused Airbus Industrie of abandoning the tender process to supply the nacelles and thrust reversers for the Rolls-Royce Trent 500 on the new Airbus A340-500/600 and selecting a French-led consortium.

After contract negotiations in 1997 with teams including Rohr (now the Aerostructures Group of BFGoodrich) and Hispano-Suiza, the European aircraft consortium is alleged to have withdrawn the request for quotations without explanation and selected the French company late in 1997.

Laurence Chapman, who was chief financial officer at Rohr at the time of the statement, but is now vice-president for finance in the new organisation, says: "We are upset at going through the enormous time and cost of responding, only to have the process change.If it was going to be a political decision, why go through the charade of requesting quotations, except to get a better bid from the French?"

Airbus rejects the claims, saying: "We made a call for tenders and Rohr failed to offer the best proposal. We are finalising a deal with another contractor."

BFGoodrich now supplies nacelles for most Airbus types. The work accounts for about 35% of its sales in this sector.

Although R-R has responsibility for the nacelle on the A330's Trent 700 which it has subcontracted to BP Advanced Structures, Hurel Dubois, Rohr and Shorts, it is not involved on the Trent 500.

The move has provided Airbus with the opportunity to take a first step toward involvement in nacelle work, a policy which Boeing already follows. Rumours abound that, ultimately, Airbus has ambitions to take a more direct role in the nacelles business once the consortium is restructured.

"It is upsetting to have the rules change, and we have expressed that to Airbus," says Chapman. "It is disappointing to see nationalism in what should be an economic choice. Most companies recognise that they must buy globally to sell globally. They have to decide what is their modus operandi - is it to provide jobs in Europe or to be globally competitive? There are other competitions to come. If the selections are to be political then there is not much point in bidding."

The deal for the A340-500/600 nacelles has still not been officially announced, but Snecma subsidiary Hispano-Suiza is the prime contractor, with Aerospatiale Aerostructures responsible for the inlet cowls, while CASA of Spain will undertake the fan-cowl door work.

The work is scheduled to be carried out through the new Hispano-Suiza Aerostructures operation.

Source: Flight International