Guy Norris/SAN DIEGO

BFGoodrich's newly enlarged Aerospace business is forecasting continuous growth from this year, thanks largely to sustained high volumes, fresh acquisitions and special diversification initiatives at its California-based Aerostructures Group, formerly known as Rohr.

The growth strategy hinges on staying closely allied to Boeing and its future airliner programmes. "Our number one priority is securing a solid position on the next Boeing development programme," says Aerostructures Group vice-president David Watson.


This could be "anything from a new derivative 747 to another 717", says Watson, who adds that the Chula Vista-based company's relationship with the airframe manufacturer "is the best we've had in 20 years". Watson attributes the improved relationship to BFGoodrich's fast response to development and production problems on the Next Generation 737 (above) and 717-200 programmes.

Aerospace sales accounted for $2.75 billion of BFGoodrich's total turnover of $3.95 billion last year. Of the aerospace portion, Aerostructures accounted for $1.14 billion, while the remaining three groups - Landing Systems, Sensors and Integrated Systems and the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul section, shared the balance. The bulk of Aerostructures income came from the traditional nacelle, pylon and thrust-reverser work, shared 50:50 between Airbus and Boeing related programmes.

This balance is expected to shift in favour of Boeing as the newly established French-based AirCell nacelle company takes on more Airbus work, including the A318 and A340-500/600. "Airbus is headed towards integrating future nacelles, while Boeing is thinking about whether it wants to continue doing that," says Watson.

"It is confusing what the two big primes are going to do, and it's equally confusing what the engine makers are going to do. We are trying to position ourselves to work with all of them. I think it will go in every direction. The engine makers will supply integrated propulsion systems, and we may see Airbus and Boeing deciding to do nacelles separately," says Watson.

To help reduce reliance on this sector, as well as to leverage existing expertise in metallic structures, Aerostructures is giving priority to new product lines and the possible acquisition of new companies in the $50-100 million turnover range. Citing examples, Watson says BFGoodrich has won a Boeing contract to develop new flight control surfaces for the F-15 from a lightweight, metallic sandwich structure. This was developed for low-cost manufacturing, using a high-speed machining process by recently acquired California-based Tolo Aerospace.

"We're working to expand that application," says Watson, who adds that the same material will be used for rigid cargo barriers it is developing for the MD-10. It has won a contract from DaimlerChrysler Aerospace to use the material for the barrier on the A300-600Fs ordered by UPS.

Another new area for Aerostructures is in space vehicle thermal-protection systems. The company is working with Lockheed Martin on the X-33 re-usable space vehicle and "hopefully on VentureStar," adds Watson, who cautions that "we're being careful not to diversify too much". Other new activities include the "Super27" programme, re-engining 727-200s, and a co-operative venture with Texas-based 7Q7 on a 707-300 re-engining effort.

Source: Flight International