Embraer Landing-Gear Overhauls Drive Liebherr Expansion

 - June 18, 2012, 12:30 PM
Saline, Mich., Mayor Gretchen Driskell and Philip Liebherr cut the ribbon on the new expansion of Liebherr-Aerospace Saline on June 14. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Aircraft components manufacturer Liebherr-Aerospace has expanded its customer service facility in Saline, Mich., by 33,000 sq ft to meet an increasing demand for landing-gear overhauls of Embraer and other aircraft operating in North and South America. The company said the expansion will help accommodate future service on Bombardier C Series and Airbus A350XWB landing gear.

The Saline facility near Detroit is one of six wholly owned service stations of Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation, based in Toulouse, France. Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation, one of 10 divisional companies of the $11.5 billion Liebherr Group based in Switzerland, manufactures landing gear and flight control/actuation systems in Lindenberg, Germany, and air management systems in Toulouse. Those components supplied on Embraer, Bombardier and Airbus aircraft operating in the Americas cycle through Saline for repair or overhaul. Liebherr has also gained a foothold with Boeing on the 747-8 freighter and passenger versions. It supplies the aircraft’s air management system, which uses bleed air from the engines to supply the cabin.

“Really, the success that Liebherr has seen in being a supplier to airframers trickles down to Saline as a service center,” said Alex Vlielander, Liebherr-Aerospace Saline president. When Liebherr the manufacturer wins work on OEMs’ aircraft programs around the world, that translates into growth at Liebherr Saline four or five years down the road, according to Vlielander. That growth will help accommodate future Airbus A350 overhauls. On June 11, Liebherr-Aerospace delivered the first instrumented nose gear for an A350 flight-test aircraft, Arndt Schoenemann, managing director of the Lindenberg facility, told AIN.

The latest expansion is the fourth for the Saline facility, which dates to 1986 and now encompasses 133,000 sq ft of workshops, warehouse and office space. Roughly one quarter of that space is used by sister companies Liebherr Gear Technology, Liebherr Automation and Liebherr Components. The aerospace operation started in 1989 as a field service location for Airbus A320 operators and obtained Part 145 repair station accreditation from the FAA in late 1991. The operation employs 130 workers on site (10 people work at liaison offices in Seattle and Wichita) and generated revenue of $70 million last year.

During a grand opening ceremony for the expansion June 14, Vlielander cited landing-gear overhauls of 50-seat Embraer ERJ145s and larger E170/190 series E-Jets in particular for driving growth. Liebherr Saline claims to have performed the world’s first landing-gear overhaul on an ERJ145 in 2005, and on an E-Jet this year. The company broke ground on the $3.5 million expansion last October and obtained an occupancy permit just before the opening ceremony.