SA company to make Airbus parts

26 August 2003

South African aeronautical design and engineering company Aerosud is to commence production of aircraft sub-assemblies for the world’s best-selling jetliners, the Airbus A320 family.

The contract forms part of Airbus’ offset obligation linked to the supply of 41 new jetliners to South African Airways. However, Aerosud won the business after Airbus and one of its aerostructures suppliers, Labinal, launched an open competition to identify the most suitable sub-contractor to produce avionics bay assemblies for the four members of the 107-185-seat A320 family, the A318, A319, A320 and A321.

The avionics bay is located in the forward fuselage beneath the flight deck. While the cockpit instrument display screens present an interactive front-end between the pilots and the plane, the avionics bay is described as the aircraft’s “brain”, as this is where all of the back-end – sophisticated navigation, communications, flight management and flight control units and associated wiring harnesses – are located.

Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe said SAA’s selection of Airbus aircraft for its fleet modernisation programme had created this opportunity for South African skills and capabilities to collaborate “on arguably one of the world’s most technologically advanced and popular jetliner programmes.

“This newest partnership is further proof that government’s statutory policy of leveraging international industrial participation through strategic state procurements does deliver new economic benefits to South Africa.”

Aerosud is a privately owned company which designs and makes aerostructures and aircraft cabin interior fittings such as galleys, cabin dividers, crew rests and window panels. The company was established in Midrand in 1990, but recently relocated to a purpose-built facility adjacent to the Air Force Base in Waterkloof near Pretoria. Aerosud employs more than 300 people representing a wide variety of skills.

Remarking on the new venture, Aerosud chief executive Paul Potgieter said: “Our focus has shifted 180 degrees since the mid-1990s, with virtually all of our output now being for the export market … This new contract marks the beginning of an exciting new relationship between Aerosud, Labinal and Airbus and we look forward to expanding this partnership into further areas of manufacturing.”

The deal follows a similar export-oriented offset partnership launched last October between Airbus, NDT Expert, Bureau-Veritas and BEE group Black Economic Aviation Management Services. The agreement established a non-destructive testing and quality assurance centre in Gauteng to serve the local and foreign aerospace, automotive defence and other high-technology manufacturing sectors. reporter