Profile Vought Aircraft Industries

Vought Aircraft Industries' presence on the Boeing 787 and the possibility of problems with its suppliers causing knock-on delays for the programme have dominated the company's media coverage in recent months.

But the 787 was rolled out on schedule and Vought insists it is taking the necessary steps to ensure it keeps up with its key customer. So what is the aerostructures specialist doing to smooth out its own structural problems?

"Two years ago we would have characterised ourselves very differently," admits chief executive Elmer Doty. The company has embarked on a hard-hitting recovery plan to turn around the business, which is made up of a diverse set of assets brought together under the ownership of the Carlyle Group since 2000.

The fledgling business quickly suffered a "financial tailspin" when the post-9/11 downturn hit the aerospace industry as the company was struggling with the early stages of the 787 programme, Doty says. After a false start, when the company attempted to counter the effects with an unsuccessful plan to consolidate production locations, the company realised it needed to boost blue-collar capacity while weeding out unnecessary layers of management. "The first restructuring attempt looked at machines, not people," Doty says.

Elmer Doty

The company was also forced to re-evaluate the contracts many of its customers had negotiated, increasing prices to levels in line with the market. Now after "top-down structural fixes, combined with a continuous improvement programme", Vought's recovery is well under way, he says. The first quarter of 2007 marked the first operating profit since its turnaround plan began.

Commercial aerospace accounts for around 45% of Vought's revenues, which reached nearly $1.6 billion in 2006, with the defence sector making up 36% and business aircraft the remainder. This is likely to shift as Boeing C-17 work falls from 2009 and 787 and 747-8 work ramps up as the commercial aerospace boom continues.

A jewel in Vought's crown is the 787 programme, for which it makes aft fuselage sections at its South Carolina site, as well as integrating over half of the 787 fuselage through its Global Aeronautica joint venture with Alenia Aeronautica.

Balance is key to Vought's portfolio, however, and the company is "working to maintain its existing relationship and build an even better one with Airbus".

Although the company would welcome a position on the A350, Doty recognises that the financially stressful year from which Vought has emerged may have harmed its chances.

Doty has ruled out bidding for any of the Airbus sites made available through the Power8 restructuring plan. "We would like a European presence, but I would like a lot of things," says Doty. "It is not clear that the best way to establish one is through one of Airbus's sites."


Source: Flight International