Messier-Dowty believes that the success of its fully packaged landing gear for Bombardier’s Global Express and Continental and Raytheon’s Hawker Horizon has allowed the system-supplier concept to take root in business aviation. The group has high hopes of being named the landing gear system supplier for both Dassault’s new Falcon FNX program and Raytheon’s Hawker 450.
The systems approach means supplying more than just the basic landing gear hardware, making the prime contractor responsible for other elements such as the brake and landing gear controls, indication units, actuators and uplocks, hydraulics and electronics, as well as the emergency extension system. In fact, Dassault engineers are expected to exclude brake controls and wheels and brakes from the anticipated systems contract for the Falcon FNX, although the company has apparently altered its procurement philosophy to allow for a systems approach.
Tim Whittier, marketing manager of Messier-Dowty’s Business & Regional Aircraft Business Unit, told AIN that he can understand the reluctance that some airframe engineering teams may have over relinquishing control of the landing gear and its associated elements–not least over concerns about job security. However, he claimed, for the aircraft manufacturer the systems approach actually eliminates technical risk and reduces development costs.
The landing gear contractor works directly with all the subsystem suppliers to deliver a finished article to the airframer. An integrated system test rig is used to prove the functionality of the landing gear system before it is installed on the aircraft, with constant feedback being directed to the airframe engineers to reassure them about issues such as performance and weight.
“From a commercial standpoint there is a benefit in that the airframer has to deal with only one supplier, compared with up to 30 suppliers under the traditional approach,” said Whittier. He added that business aircraft manufacturers such as Bombardier have been at the forefront of accepting the systems approach, whereas Boeing has continued to keep overall control in-house for its airliners.
Messier-Dowty has been involved with Dassault’s Falcon programs since the 1960s, mainly providing discrete nose and main landing gear, as well as uplocks and actuators. The anticipated FNX contract would be its broadest involvement with the airframer to date.
The company is proposing a similar approach to Raytheon for the Hawker 450 and envisages using similarly composed teams of subsystem suppliers. However, with the prospect of the Falcon FNX contract in the offing, it is keeping an open mind about a possible switch to some of Dassault’s favored European suppliers.
“We have been paying close attention to the commercial and technical biases of the Dassault team,” said Whittier. “We are always open to new suppliers; it is never a foregone conclusion.” Although Messier-Dowty’s business and regional aircraft activities are based in Toronto, it would also be able to draw on the capabilities of its French sister company headquartered at Velizy, near Paris.
Messier-Dowty’s main competitors are Goodrich of the U.S. and Germany’s Liebherr Aerospace, both of which have now followed the systems approach to landing gear development. In the race for Dassault’s business, Liebherr benefits from having a subsidiary at Toulouse in southwestern France, not far from the airframer’s Bordeaux headquarters. It has also been able to progress its relatively new systems capability in the work it has done for Embraer’s ERJ-190 regional jet program.
Raytheon’s design team has reportedly accepted the case for ordering a complete landing gear system for the 450. Contract award is anticipated in November or December and Messier-Dowty has offered to dispatch a team of engineers to the airframer’s Wichita headquarters as early as this month in anticipation of its selection.
Whittier said that most notable technological advances in landing gear development have been through the use of new materials and new design tools. “However,” he reflected, “the difficulty with new materials is that everyone wants leading-edge technology, but with a proven track record, and that’s kind of an oxymoron.”
Messier-Dowty has developed significant experience at machining high-strength alloys such as 300M. This has allowed it to be more confident in making greater use of these demanding materials, which have suffered from unacceptably high wastage rates in the production process.
The use of virtual integration technology at the design phase has improved cost efficiency in landing gear development. For instance, the equipment has been used to check component clearances and to be more precise about tolerances. Generally, it has resulted in much more accurate digital evaluation of all components.
Messier-Dowty has also made landing gear for the following business aircraft types: the Falcon 10, 20, 50, 50EX, 900, 900EX, 2000 and 2000EX; the Fairchild Dornier Envoy 3; the Bombardier Challenger Models 600, 601 and 604; the Raytheon Hawker 800XP; the Piaggio P.180 Avanti; the Socata TBM 700; and the Bell/Agusta BA609 tiltrotor.