Terrazoni: "We think Airbus should be the vehicle for integration of the European civil-aircraft industry"

Aerospatiale has expanded its presence in the regional-aircraft field considerably through the ATR 72

By far the largest component of France's civil-aircraft industry is built around the Airbus Industrie consortium, which accounts for more than 75% of Aerospatiale's total income from the civil-aircraft business. Regional aircraft account for a further 10%, and maintenance and other activities make up the remainder.

The forthcoming privatisation of Aerospatiale, coupled with the establishment of Airbus as a company rather than a consortium, leaves the future size and shape of France's indigenous civil-aircraft industry unclear at present - as, indeed, is the case with the other consortium members, Germany, Spain and the UK. Much depends on the valuation of Aerospatiale's 37.9% stake in Airbus, and on how future work is divided up in a regime which will emphasise manufacturing efficiency in the battle against Boeing.

Aerospatiale has been central to the development of the current Airbus range and can reasonably claim to be the European leader in the integration of cockpit and flight-control systems - at least in the civil sector. Its skills, honed during 22 years of Airbus development, will certainly be indispensable to the future Airbus company, for which the Ìrst major new project will almost certainly be the A3XX ultra-high-capacity airliner.

"We think Airbus should be the vehicle for integration of the European civil-aircraft industry," says Claude Terrazoni, Aerospatiale's civil-aircraft vice-president. He says that the manufacturer is "-looking for the best way to adapt to the new Airbus system-we are open, we participate and we have ideas".

Inrecent years, Aerospatiale has done much to improve its cost effectiveness on the manufacturing floor, mainly by reducing lead times and restructuring its manufacturing organisation. According to its president, Yves Michot, the number of employees was cut by 17% between 1992 and 1995, with the aim of achieving a workforce of 36,166 by the end of 1998. Coupled with the other measures, he says that debt has been reduced more rapidly than envisaged, helping the company towards a return to financial health in 1996, with a net profit of Fr273 million ($47 million) for the first half of the year and a reduction in debt of Fr3 billion, to around Fr3.5 billion. The debt should be wiped out by the end of 1998. "We have no intention of resting on our laurels," says financial director Francois Auque.

The improvement in the fortunes of Aerospatiale's civil-aircraft business is best seen through the increase in turnover from Fr25.9 billion in 1994 to Fr27.3 billion two years later. Most of this came from Airbus sales, which accounted for Fr20.3 billion of turnover in 1996. The fusion with Dassault Aviation will increase further the size of the company, which will yield a combined annual turnover of more than Fr62 billion, at least half of which will be in the civil sector.


Airbus responsibility

Aerospatiale Aeronautique's presence in the Airbus consortium centres on the production of the forward-fuselage segments of all single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft in the range, plus integration of the cockpit and, at the Clement Ader site at Toulouse, responsibility for final assembly of the A300-600, A310-300, A320, A330 and A340 (Daimler-Benz Aerospace has responsibility for final assembly of the A319 and A321). For Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)), the division takes care of design and construction of the wings, engine nacelles, flightdeck and cabin layout for the ATR 42/72, as well as final assembly and flight testing.

Airbus activities are organised around the Airbus Operations division, based at Toulouse and consisting of 4,500 people, with six "programme directorates" responsible for the seven Airbus types, the planned Future Large Aircraft military transport, A3XX and new-generation supersonic transport. It also takes care of Caravelle, Concorde and Transall operations.

Aerostructures activities are centred on four main sites at Méaulte, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and Toulouse, all of which have made major efforts in the past three years to reduce costs and improve productivity.

Activities at Toulouse centre on engine pylon subassembly, steel and titanium machining, cabin fittings and cable bundles, while Nantes specialises in large-scale machining, assembly of aircraft sections, mechanical-composite materials, chemical milling and structural composite materials. Saint-Nazaire focuses on fuselage section and wing assembly, pipes and panel forming, while Méaulte handles section subassemblies and machining of small mechanical parts.

Another important area of activity, grouped under Aerospatiale's Systems and Services Operations centre, is automatic test equipment, where the division has developed its ATE Crange of test equipment with sales in more than 50 countries. It also produces strategic avionics equipment, such as the Airbus main electronic flight-control computer and central maintenance management computers, along with simulators for aircraft development and crew and maintenance training.



The regional-aircraft business in France, like so many other sectors of its aerospace industry, is undergoing a major shake-up as part of a long-overdue European consolidation.

As one of the original partners in the ATR consortium, with equal 50% shares to Italy's Alenia, Aerospatiale has been able to increase its presence in the field considerably, through the 40-seat ATR 42 and 70-seat ATR 72 turboprop commuters, with the French company's share of sales doubling from Fr0.9 billion in 1994 to Fr1.8 billion two years later, giving it a 20% share of the global market for commuters of this size.

Overcapacity of regional-aircraft manufacturers in Europe led to several attempts to achieve consolidation and, after many months of negotiations, ATR was expanded in early 1996 to include British Aerospace. It was then that it was renamed AI(R).

The product line-up was expanded accordingly, to include the UK's Avro RJ series of 70- to 110-seat regional jets, and the Jetstream small turboprops. These joined the existing ATR developments, the ATR 42-500 and ATR 72-210, all now being marketed under the AI(R)name. In total, the new group claims to have sold around 1,500 regional aircraft to 253 operators worldwide - and it is still adding to the list, with 22 new customers signed up in 1996.


Difficult year

The figures for 1996 reflect a difficult year for most regional-aircraft manufacturers, with AI(R)registering a 13% fall in deliveries, to 85 aircraft, and a 47% drop in sales, to 59. Emphasis now rests on the launch of a new series of 50- to 70-seat twin-engined regional jets, which at the time of writing had advanced to the stage of evaluating offers from potential partners in South Korea and Taiwan, as well as Sweden's Saab Aircraft, Spain's CASA and other potential European manufacturers, to take stakes in the programme. This would see a change in the manufacturing stakes held by each of the current AI(R)partners, and a consequent reduction in Aerospatiale's involvement. Nevertheless, if the programme is a success, Aerospatiale's position in the commuter market will be given lasting stability as part of a long-awaited expanded European grouping.

Source: Flight International