Paris Air Show

Meggitt turns attention to its core competencies

 - June 13, 2007, 12:06 PM

A sustained program of corporate integration and investment in manufacturing and customer support is giving Meggitt greater focus and a more strategic position in the aerospace and defense markets. The UK-based group has long had a reputation for market-leading technology, but has arguably not fully exploited the synergies among its diverse product groups.

According to Meggitt chief executive Terry Twigger, this situation is improving thanks to moves over the past year to restructure the group around three core product areas: sensing systems, aerospace equipment and defense systems. “By grouping what we do around similar technology and customers, our organization is definitely more logical today,” he told Aviation International News. “Our customers can choose from a package of related products, and we are also making Meggitt an easier company to deal with.” One clear strategic goal for the group is to increase the value of sales by providing more subsystems and bundling product packages for aircraft programs.

The sensing systems division encompasses Meggitt’s full array of sensor products, as well as associated electronics. This includes its well-regarded Vibro-Meter line of engine health-monitoring sensors and the diagnostic and prognostic capability of its Sensorex business, along with French-based ignition specialist ECET (now trading as Vibro-Meter France). “We are offering much more than just vibration sensing,” explained Twigger. “With sensors positioned all around engines, including in harsh environments, we are allowing OEMs to gather all the condition-monitoring signals they need to support their power-by-the-hour arrangements with operators.”

Meggitt’s engine health management systems will feature in both powerplant choices for the Airbus A380 airliner, as well as in the Trent 1000 and GEnx engines for the Boeing 787. At the company’s Paris Air Show exhibit (Hall 2B Stand L13/1), visitors can see a new weight-saving concept for networked sensors and for an integrated sensor and ignition system. Rolls-Royce recently decided to tap this technology for a new member of its BR700 turbofan family.

Other work in Meggitt’s sensors division is focused on the development
of a new microwave-based system for sensing the gap between turbine tips and fan blades. It has a prototype of a system that would allow engine makers to reduce this gap safely and thus reduce fuel burn and emissions.

Meggitt’s aerospace equipment division amalgamates five product groups: fluid controls (for example, valves), environmental controls (including ducts, heat-exchangers and fire overheat and smoke detection systems), polymer and composite seals, and wheels and brakes. This part of the group offers advanced controllers for fans, pumps and valves that are contributing to the all-electric environment of new aircraft.

The defense systems division brings together training systems and targetry (see box at right), as well as ammunition-handling systems. The group also offers avionics cooling capability.

Twigger explained that Meggitt is trying to improve the reach and efficiency of its customer support operation. For example, it is transforming the Singapore support facility that it acquired as part of its purchase of Dunlop Aviation’s wheels and brakes business into a repair and overhaul center for Meggitt’s entire product line, serving customers throughout the Asia Pacific region. It may now take a similar approach to rationalizing aftermarket support operations in the European and North American markets.

Meggitt is investing substantially in new production capacity, prompted by rising demand for its products and the desire for greater manufacturing efficiency. For instance, it is about to complete a new building for its sensors operation in Switzerland and it is combining three defense businesses in California into a single site.

By September, if not sooner, Meggitt expects to complete the acquisition of U.S. company K&F Industries, including Aircraft Braking Systems and fuel bladder specialist Engineered Fabrics Corp. This $1.8 billion deal also brings helicopter interiors, ice protection and fuel sealant capability to the Meggitt portfolio.

Twigger indicated that more capital is available to add to existing capability across all three of its newly reorganized product divisions. Last year, Meggitt group sales climbed by 9 percent to £670.3 million ($1.3 billion) and profits jumped 47 percent to £96.5 million ($191 million).   

Glide Target Cuts Training Costs

Here at Le Bourget this week Meggitt is showing its new GT-400 high-performance glide target, developed to bridge the cost and performance gap between existing towed and free-flying target drones.

“This is an important product now that militaries are balking at the cost of flying jet-powered targetry,” said Meggitt Defence Systems vice president Ian Matyear.
“Our new target flies at sufficiently high speeds to challenge ground or airborne weapons operators but there is no engine to pay for, and, since it is
air-launched, it can be deployed at a fraction of the price of jet-powered drones.”

The GT-400 can carry scoring devices and both the infrared and radio frequency reflectors needed to emulate a wide range of missiles and manned aircraft. The new target is already being used by French target-towing contractor Aviation Defense Service and by the Royal Australian Air Force. “They [customers] also like the fact that this is a benign, fuel-free glider so it doesn’t need the fully instrumented ranges and tracking systems that you need to run a jet-drone,” said Matyear.

For safe reel out and target tracking practice, the new target’s wing-mounted spoiler peels away with the tow line as the glider is released. From a release altitude of 35,000 feet, the GT-400 glides at between 250 and 400 knots for around 20 to 50 nm following a preprogrammed flight profile. It is equipped with a battery-operated GPS and autopilot.

Meggitt continues to offer its Voodoo and Banshee powered target drones.