France's Snecma plans to start producing CFM56 engine parts at a new plant in Mexico early next year while sister company Messier-Dowty plans to start producing landing gear parts at an adjacent plant.

ATI reported earlier this month that the Government of the central Mexican state of Queretaro had concluded a deal with Snecma and Messier parent Safran covering 17ha of land for two new plants at its aerospace park. Safran Group senior executive VP for international development Emeric d'Arcimoles told ATI in an interview this week that construction of the new factories will begin in September and production will start about this time next year.

At the new Snecma plant, booster spools and turbine blades for the CFM56 engine will be initially produced. "It will be simple parts at the beginning," D'Arcimoles says. "We don't expect to produce discs or so on."

At the new Messier-Dowty plant, steel landing gear parts including fittings, sliders and bogie beams will initially be manufactured. This plant is also expected to expand into more complex parts over time.

D'Arcimoles says Snecma and Messier-Dowty now only produce these parts in Europe. He says production in Europe will continue at its current rate as demand for these parts is increasing, necessitating the opening of a second facility.

"We plan to absorb the increase with Mexico plants," he explains. "We don't destroy jobs in the Europe or the US."

He says most of the parts to be produced in Queretaro are for the aftermarket and will be for US customers. By establishing production in Mexico, Snecma and Messier-Dowty will be closer to its US customers, and be able to reduce its costs as labour rates are cheaper than in Europe.

D'Arcimoles says each new plant is expected to have about 250 employees by 2013.

Safran already has a large presence in Mexico with four aerospace facilities. In Queretaro it already has two maintenance facilities - a joint venture Snecma Services shop which overhauls CFM56s and a Messier Services shop which overhauls a mix of mainly narrowbody landing gears.

D'Arcimoles says these plants will continue to operate in private business parks in Queretaro but Safran will focus future Mexican expansion at the aerospace park. The aerospace park, located adjacent to the Queretaro Airport, opened last year with Bombardier as the largest tenant.

D'Arcimoles says Queretaro's decision to open an aerospace university next to the government-owned aerospace park was an important factor in its decision to locate the two new facilities at the park. The National Aeronautic University in Queretaro (UNAQ) began training its first batch of students early this year.

"The decision by Queretaro government to invest in a university between Bombardier and us was a strong motivation for us to invest," D'Arcimoles says. "This is very important to us."

While manufacturing employees generally do not need university training D'Arcimoles points out the "machining for this type of production is more and more sophisticated". He says the establishment of UNAQ is also important to Safran as it aims to eventually pursue development projects in Mexico, which would require aerospace engineers.

"The next step for us outside France is development activities," D'Arcimoles says.

UNAQ now offers Mexico's only aerospace engineering course outside Mexico City. It is also providing Bombardier and other aerospace manufacturers with company specific training courses for new hires. These three- to six-month courses are taught by UNAQ professors with oversight from the manufacturers.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news