While military training aircraft will always be the main focus of Finmeccanica subsidiary Aermacchi’s business, the growing civil portion is important to the company’s success, says chief executive Carmelo Cosentino.

Since its July 2003 integration into the Finmeccanica group – Italy’s dominant aerospace player now owns a 99% stake the company – Aermacchi’s turnover has grown to €185 million ($224 million). Civil revenues account for around 35% of turnover.

Aermacchi has no plans to significantly alter this split, but has an ambitious plan to double turnover from 2005 levels by 2010. In the trainer market alone, the company estimates a market for 5,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.

Two aircraft hold the key to Aermacchi’s success in the basic and advanced trainer markets over the coming years. The M346 advanced trainer – undoubtedly a key product for Aermacchi – is due for its first delivery in 2008. The company is working on expanding the flight envelope of its two prototypes, with new software expected to improve its performance, in particular in terms of load factor, manoeuvrability and angle of attack, says senior vice-president programmes and commercial Carlo Logli.

International participation is key to the success of the programme, and a memorandum of understanding with Greece for participation in the aircraft is on the cards, Logli says. The company considers internationalisation of programmes as a vital part of its strategy, as it shares risk and know-how with other countries. Aermacchi is also in talks with the member countries of the Eurotraining consortium, and with Poland. “We believe the market has changed radically – it is no longer the case that a good product automatically succeeds. The successful programme must be an international programme under the leadership of a main player. A good aircraft is a precondition, but it is not enough.” The various contributions of skills and expertise, sharing of risk and the ability to leverage and enlarge market base make this approach so vital, Logli adds.

Cosentino sees a market for at least 200 M346s in Europe, the “first priority”. And while the USA does not have immediate trainer needs, “Finmeccanica is active in the USA, so it’s an interesting market for us in the longer term”, Logli says.

The company is on track for deliveries of the first of its M311 basic trainer in 2008, to meet the needs of Singapore, a potential launch customer, says Logli. A technology demonstrator for the aircraft is now being flown. Some suppliers have been identified and prototype aircraft are being assembled. The industrialisation process is expected to begin midway through 2006.

The company is awaiting a request for proposals (RFP) from Turkey and, in the medium term, Australia could be a market, Logli says, and the company will compete in the United Arab Emirates if an RFP is issued.

While the civil market is not Aermacchi’s core business, it is significant, not least because of its capacity to offset the “peaks and troughs” of the trainer market, Cosentino says. The company is making significant investment in this area. “We need to satisfy our shareholder,” Cosentino says. Risk reduction is key to this. The company is learning important lessons on stability and increasing efficiency and competitiveness from the commercial sector, Cosentino adds.

Aermacchi is in negotiations with Airbus for the supply of nacelles for the A350. “We believe that we have to stay in all new programmes,” Cosentino says. He adds that the company’s manageable size – it has 1,800 employees – and single-site location near Milan are key in the pursuit of the all-important efficiency: “In this case small is beautiful.”

Source: Flight International