UTC, Safran and the nacelles industry

When an area has two of the world’s top suppliers of nacelle systems, it sends a
message to others about the viability of your aviation activities...

David Tortorano
October 2017

In May 2016 United Technologies Aerospace Systems said it would expand its
operation in Foley, and 15 months later it officially dedicated a new building to
assemble nacelles, the housing around jetliner engines.

That’s a big win for any area trying to grow its aerospace footprint. But there was
more. Between the UTC announcement and the dedication, there was another
announcement that underscores the growing importance of the region’s aerospace

Safran Nacelles in November 2016 announced that it was expanding its international
network of jet engine nacelle integration facilities with a new site in Mobile, Ala., to
serve the Airbus U.S. manufacturing facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.

UTC Aerospace
Already the largest manufacturing employer in Baldwin County, UTC Aerospace
Systems in August officially dedicated its new 80,000-square foot nacelle assembly

The new facility, announced in May 2016, adds to the site’s existing 230,000-square
foot original equipment plant and 210,000-square foot MRO facility.

The expansion will give the Foley plant 1,000-plus workers. It’s expected to be fully
operational by year’s end.

It features an automated material movement to index large nacelle component
platforms down the assembly line, an overhead rail system with vacuum lifts and
automated paint system.

A nacelle system is the aerodynamic structure that surrounds a jet engine, and
includes the engine cowling, inlet cowl, fan cowl, thrust reverser, core cowl and
exhaust system. Integration of the engine and nacelle is “podding.”

Parts are shipped to Foley from locations worldwide, where they assemble the inlets
and other parts. They are then mated with engines for the Mobile final assembly
facility. The Foley site also assembles components for Boeing, Embraer and

Foley currently does the podding for the CFM and Pratt & Whitney engines used in
the current engine option A320s built in Mobile, and will continue until Airbus starts
building the more fuel-efficient A320neo.

After that, Foley will do pod work for Pratt & Whitney neo engines, the PW1000G,
previously known as the Geared Turbofan. It’s used in the Bombardier C Series,
Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) and Embraer’s second-generation E-Jets (E2). The
engine is also an option on the Airbus A320neo and Irkut MC-21.

The integrated propulsion systems for the A320neo will be delivered to the Airbus
final assembly line in Mobile, about an hour away from the Foley site.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently toured the new facility at the plant, which in February
was named one of IndustryWeek magazine’s 2016 Best Plants in North America.

“The Foley expansion is part of an incremental investment of more than $500 million
that Aerostructures has made to build or expand six company sites around the world
in support of the A320neo nacelle ramp-up,” said Marc Duvall, president of UTC
Aerospace Systems Aerostructures.

The UTC Aerostructures business received the Airbus Supplier Support Rating for
exceptional aftermarket support of airplanes at the Paris Air show earlier this year.

Safran Nacelles
Safran’s site in Mobile will perform the podding work for the LEAP-1A engines, one of
the two engine options for the Airbus A320neo jetliners. The LEAP-1A was
developed by Safran Aircraft Engines and GE through their joint company, CFM
International, to power the next generation of single-aisle commercial jets.

The podding work involves integrating the turbofan power plants with Safran Nacelles-
supplied nacelle systems, followed by delivery of the completed units to Airbus, about
a mile away, for installation on A320neo aircraft where the customer picks the CFM

Safran signed a 20-year lease for the existing building. The plant will be open before
the end of the year, and delivery of integrated power plants to Airbus will begin in
early 2018.

Safran Nacelles’ Mobile location will utilize innovations developed for LEAP-1A at
nacelle/engine integration sites in Toulouse/Colomiers, France,
Hamburg/Finkenwerder, Germany and Komsomolsk, Russia. The innovations include
specially designed SmartTrolley engine cradle and transporter, which reduces the
time to handle integration work.

In a news release in August 2017, two months after the Paris Air Show were final
details were worked out, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce said that Safran
would hire 20 workers over the next three years for the new operation.

The Mobile Airport Authority is building out one of the existing bays at Mobile
Aeroplex to 24,500 square feet. In addition, the company is investing about $1 million
in equipment with an opening planned for November 2017.


Related news

•    UTC in September said it would acquire Rockwell Collins for a total transaction
value of $30 billion, including Rockwell Collins’ net debt.

Boeing in a statement warned that it would turn to regulators for help if the
combination threatened competition in parts manufacturing, according to the New
York Times.

And Airbus, which has experienced delays because of problems with the latest batch
of Pratt & Whitney jet engines, said it hoped the deal “would not distract UTC from
their top operational priority.”

The deal comes on the heels of Rockwell Collins $8.3 billion takeover of B/E
Aerospace, a manufacturer of seats and other interior plane parts.

•    Airbus told European governments Oct. 4 that it decided to bring the design of
some nacelles inside the company, rather than leaving it with suppliers, according to

An Airbus spokesman said the decision had already been taken to recoup nacelle
work carried out by United Technologies for engines supplied by the company’s Pratt
& Whitney to power the A320neo.

“Bringing nacelle capability in-house allows Airbus to further improve nacelle
aerodynamics to offer extra efficiency and better performance,” the Airbus
spokesman said.

Under the project, industry sources say Airbus will redesign some key parts including
the P&W engine’s thrust reverser. It will also be responsible for integrating the engine
housing and the pylon which attaches it to the wing, according to Reuters.

•    Tulsa-based NORDAM announced an agreement with Airbus to supply engine
build-up system for A320neos equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine. The
company’s Nacelle and Thrust Reverser Systems Division has delivered integrated
power-plant design for business jet customers, but this will be the first for a
commercial aircraft.

The buildup system integrates the engine to the aircraft by a series of electrical,
hydraulic, pneumatic, fire-detection and bleed-air systems. NORDAM will design,
integrate and deliver the specified combination of wires, ducts, brackets, anti-ice
valve, tubing and more for delivery to Airbus final assembly lines in Toulouse,
France; Hamburg, Germany; Tianjin, China; and Mobile.

•    Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) said in early October that it has been awarded
the contract to design, build and supply the P&W nacelle fan cowl for the A320neo.

The fan cowls will be designed and built at the TAI Ankara Kahramankazan premises
in Turkey, where it is already contracted to design and build parts for other Airbus

•    Magellan Aerospace Corp., based in Toronto, Canada, has been selected by
Airbus to provide exhaust systems for the A320neo family of aircraft.

Magellan will design, develop, and manufacture exhaust systems for the P&W
nacelle, with the first unit scheduled to enter service in 2022.

The systems will be produced in Winnipeg and Manitoba, Canada, and Middletown,
Ohio and delivered directly to Airbus assembly lines across the globe.

- compiled by GCAC
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