Two years in the doldrums finally ended for Sonaca in 2010. The recovering aerospace market began to feed through to the Belgian company and its own recovery programme began to bear fruit.

Business volume grew by 15% - better than forecast, although still a substantial 23% down compared with 2008's pre-recession boom. And despite encouraging factors such as an 11% increase in operating income and a 12% rise in productivity there was still a loss - albeit reduced compared with 2009 - of €15.9 million ($22.6 million).

The Gosselies-based manufacturer specialises in leading edges and slats, with wing and fuselage panels making up most of the remainder of its workload.

Its products are on every member of the Airbus family, including the A400M military transport.

This connection will continue into the foreseeable future, with its work on the new A350 XWB, for which it is designing and manufacturing the slats. The French connection continues through Dassault, for which it provides slats and fixed wing leading edges for the Falcon 7X.

Learjet 85
 © Bombardier
Sonaca's deal with Bombardier saw the company working on the Learjet 85

Sonaca also has a transatlantic component to its work, producing not only slats in Brazil but also fuselage centre section and keel beams for the Embraer E 170/190 family, plus the rear and centre fuselage for the ERJ/Legacy range. Embraer's great rival in the regional market, Canada's Bombardier, is also a customer, with the Belgian company providing leading edges, slats and de-icing systems.

In September 2010, a useful extra piece of work came from another Bombardier division, when Learjet asked it to improve the de-icing system on the Learjet 85, which involved a major redesign.

While Sonaca's position improved in 2010, with reductions in costs coming from a redundancy programme and reduction of stock, some subsidiaries faced fluctuations in their workload, which affected profitability.

Additionally, both the euro and the Brazilian real strengthened against the dollar, which also had adverse effects on the bottom line.

Across all its customer aircraft, Sonaca last year delivered 849 shipsets of components, compared with a high of 1,106 in 2008.

The end of 2010 brought the formation of a new Chinese subsidiary, Elson. Its assembly plant at Tianjin is intended to take advantage of China's lower cost structure.


  • Top 100 rank - 97
  • HQ - Gosselies, Belgium
  • Aero revenues - $255m
  • Sales growth - 12.8%
  • Operating margin  - 2%
  • ROCE - N/A
  • Employees - 1,403
  • CEO - Bernard Delvaux


Source: Flight International