Virgin America’s eve-of-Paris-show $1.4 billion order for CFM International Leap engines to power its 30 Airbus A320neo airliners provided validation of parent company Safran’s view that the aerospace market is well and truly back in growth mode. Yesterday, the airline gilded the deal with a $400 million contract for rate-per-hour support for the new-generation turbofans over 12 years in service.
“We are clearly out of the crisis that began three years ago,” Jean-Pierre Cojan, Safran’s executive v-p for strategy, told AIN. “Customers are producing aircraft at full capacity. We are working according to the aims of our programs and don’t see any negative turnaround between now and the end of 2012.”
France’s Safran is one half of CFM International–the other half being GE Aviation–and Airbus’s re-engined A320neo isn’t the only validation of its Leap technology. The engine is also the selected powerplant for the Comac C-919 narrowbody, which is set to enter service in 2016. The focus now is intensifying on possible new turbofan requirement for whatever path rival Boeing opts to take in developing a replacement and/or update to its prolific 737 family.
Not that engines themselves are Safran’s only focus in aerospace. On the equipment side, it is supplying the landing gear on the Boeing B787, this being a key contribution to making the new widebody arguably the most-electric aircraft yet. Here in Paris on Sunday, Safran (Hall 2A A232) took this trend a step further, announcing a new alliance with Honeywell to develop electrically powered taxiing system.
To ensure a more coherent response to airframers’ needs for complete landing systems and support, Safran recently merged its Messier-Bugatti, Messier-Dowty and Messier-Services subsidiaries into a single company. For Cojan, this single-offer approach–including in-service maintenance–makes life easier for customers.
The big news in Safran’s defense and security is the imminent closure of the process to acquire the biometrics, access control and secure ID document operations of L-1 Identity Solutions of the U.S. All the necessary regulatory approvals have been met and L-1 will be integrated with Safran subsidiary Morpho, already a world leader in X-ray diffraction that identifies the chemical signature of materials inside baggage.
According to Cojan, despite the general pressure on defense budgets, some aspects are on the rise especially in the high-technology fields that are Safran’s specialties. He maintained that Safran has no concerns about counting on continued support from French and European governments for key defense technology programs.
Safran also is increasing its profile in key emerging markets, particularly in Asia. “These countries, especially China and India, require big increases in their fleets and want to develop their own aerospace industries, providing huge potential and big opportunities,” he told AIN. The compay is already established, through its Powerjet joint venture with Russia’s NPO Saturn engine maker, as the powerplant provider for that country’s new Superjet SJ-100 airliner.
“Safran has plants in Russia, China and India. All are big powers that do not threaten our Western base. They will export their own aircraft but still need Western European companies for aircraft equipment and will keep buying European and American aircraft for a long time.” he predicted.