Airbus boost for SA aerospace sector

27 June 2013

South African state-owned defence equipment manufacturer Denel has signed a R157-million agreement with Airbus to manufacture tail plane parts for the A400M strategic airlifter.

The contract will last eight years, with production beginning in the next few months; the first finished parts will be shipped to Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Stade, Germany in August 2013.

It demonstrates the confidence that international manufacturers have in South Africa’s aerospace industry, according to Denel Group chief executive officer Riaz Saloojee.

“We have proven ourselves to be a reliable and innovative top tier supplier to one of the most sophisticated aircraft manufacturing programmes in the world,” he said in a statement last week.

“Airbus’s decision to place a third major order with Denel shows satisfaction with the quality of our design and manufacturing processes and our ability to deliver on time and within budgets.”

The deal includes the manufacturing of vertical beams known as spars, horizontal composite machinings called ribs and a connecting plate at the bottom known as the sword.

All of these parts are constructed from carbon fibre composites and covered with a metallic skin and added to the internal tail structure before the plane is assembled.

“The vertical tail plane is a flight critical part of an aircraft of the size of the A400M and contributes to its unique ability to land and take off carrying payloads in excess of 35 000 kilograms,” the company said.

“The new contract places the company at the core of the global aerospace manufacturing industry,” said Denel Aerostructures CEO Ismail Dockrat.

Denel Aerostructures has also just completed a relocation of its operations to one location, which will cut costs and improve efficiency, as well as position the company to take on more manufacturing work.

Dockrat said the contract also confirms that Denel is at the forefront of global trends to use composite materials for high-tech manufacturing and is driving the trend in the country.

“Denel Aerostructures has made significant investments in a composite facility in which it is able to manufacture products ranging from simple aircraft parts to complex main rotor blades for helicopters,” the company said.

“Government, in its Aerospace Sector Development Plan, recognises the immense potential of the composite sector, noting that it will be dominant in aerospace going forward and should be integral to future business planning,” Dockrat said.

SAinfo reporter