Farnborough Air Show

HS merger reaping more tangible rewards

 - November 15, 2006, 11:43 AM

The merger in 1999 of air management and engine control specialist Sundstrand and power systems provider Hamilton Standard has proved to be a prescient move that shrewdly anticipated the aerospace industry’s requirement for companies with sufficient technological capability to take on a systems integration role. And according to Hamilton Sundstrand (HS) president David Hess, the proof of this strategy has taken tangible form in the extensive contributions the company is making to the new Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 airliner programs.

For the 787, HS is responsible for 1.5 megawatts of the power generated for the aircraft’s systems–three times the amount it provided for the previous generation 767 aircraft. The U.S. company, part of United Technologies Corp., is fully responsible for generating the power from six starter generators and distributing it across some 1,500 loads (that is, individual items that draw current) and with 30 motor control circuits.

All interfaces within the 787’s power distribution network are the direct responsibility of HS, which is accountable directly to the Boeing engineering team. The firm is also providing the twinjet’s air management system.

Systems integration roles like this can require significantly greater investment on the part of the tier-one supplier concerned. But according to Hess, the capital outlay for 787 has not been that much greater than if his company had been handed systems contracts in a more piecemeal way and the potential rewards are greater because it derives income from the systems interfacing with the power distribution network.

The HS president believes the company’s success in the landmark 787 program has firmly established its credentials as a leading tier-one aerospace supplier. It beat rival Honeywell in contests for all seven of the systems contracts it bid for on the aircraft.

As part of the commitment to ensuring that it has the engineering capability to handle turnkey programs like this, HS has made a $50 million investment in a new airplane power systems integration facility at Rockford, Illinois, where power systems can be thoroughly tested. The company is also responsible for all electrical power generation and distribution on Embraer’s 170/190 family of regional jets.

As an integrator of power systems in the age of the more electric aircraft, HS claims to have achieved significant innovation in thermo management, that is, controlling the amount and impact of heat generated by this equipment. It has also miniaturized systems as far as possible to reduce their weight and volume, as well as rationalizing the way they are packaged (partly to make maintenance more efficient).

In terms of dollar value, HS (Hall 4 Stand F13) actually has a greater stake in the A380 program. Among numerous other systems, it provides the super-sized airliner’s auxiliary power unit, the ram-air turbine and central galley cooling system. Its Ratier-Figeac subsidiary in France has provided the aircraft’s cockpit controls.

Last year’s acquisition by UTC of Kidde Aerospace & Defense has added a new dimension to the HS portfolio in the shape of fire detection and suppression systems. Kidde products include smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, overheat detectors, fuel tank inerting bottles and dry bay fire suppressors.

Hess indicated that HS has ambitions to expand its capability in the cockpit–a path that may lead it to further acquisitions. At the same time, research and development funding is available as part of the UTC group’s technology review process.

HS has some 50 facilities worldwide and employs 16,000 people, including 4,000 in Europe. Revenues last year reached $4.4 billion. In military markets, the company has a major systems presence on the A400M transport, as well as on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and other leading combat airplane platforms, including the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18.