Nordam targets growth areas

 - November 30, 2006, 6:11 AM

When he died last year, Ray Siegfried II left Nordam with a clear target–to become a billion-dollar company. “We’re on track for that and we’re in attack mode,” said Rick Armstrong, vice president for international sales and marketing. And both the business aviation sector and the European marketplace represent big factors in this attack strategy, which is why the U.S. group is again exhibiting at the EBACE show.

The sad loss in last October of the man who 36 years earlier had saved Nordam from bankruptcy happened when the company was already embarked on an aggressive strategy to expand both its business aviation and global airline maintenance repair organization support businesses. Today, each accounts for around half of the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company’s annual revenues, which in the 2004 financial year amounted to almost $500 million.

Nordam counts itself among the big league of privately owned aerospace companies as well as one of the world’s largest third-party providers of maintenance, repair and overhaul services to the military, commercial airline and air freight markets. “We expect solid growth in all sectors,” Armstrong told EBACE Convention News, “and we think the business aviation market will be a significant driver to that billon-dollar goal. We see growth of between 15 and 20 percent over 2005 and think that will continue.”

Targeting Primary Structures

Armstrong revealed that Nordam’s plans include an onslaught on the hard-fought market for business aircraft primary structures, capitalizing on its extensive composites and metal bonding expertise. “We already manufacture radomes and other nonprimary parts, but we see no reason why we shouldn’t go toward wing-body fairings and empennages. We’re also taking a look at business aircraft fuselage skins,” he said.

“We want to think big,” added Mark Ferrari, vice president of sales and marketing for North American business aviation. “Airframe customers such as Gulfstream, Dassault and Embraer are all looking to do more business with us. We’ve earned that position through hard work and dedication.”

At the 2005 National Business Aviation Association show in Orlando, Florida, Nordam presented itself as a company that supplies components “from radome to tailcone.” At EBACE it is presenting some of the products that enable it to make such a claim. “We’re using it to present our whole package of capabilities,” said Armstrong. “We’re a product leader in nacelles, thrust reversers, cabin interiors and transparencies–we’re very proud of winning the contract to supply all of the window transparencies for the Airbus A380.”

“We see the North American and European markets as not dissimilar in size,” said Ferrari. “There is significant growth in business aviation in Europe but we’re also seeing a lot of movement in the U.S. with our cabin interior solutions for the light and medium-light aircraft. We’re looking at expanding our Wichita facilities to accommodate that.”

Eyeing the  VLJ Market

Nordam is keeping an eye on the very light jet market as well. “We’re doing a lot of research into lightweight panels for interior linings–we already supply the cockpit and passenger windows for the Eclipse,” said Armstrong. The Eclipse windshield–which can be seen on the aircraft making a debut here at EBACE this week–features a new heating system.

Last year saw Nordam winning several significant contracts, including its selection by Bombardier to supply the configured interior liner and window shades for the new Learjet 60XR, and a new contract with Honeywell to supply complete thrust reverser systems for the TFE731-40AR engines powering the new Gulfstream G150. The deal complemented Nordam’s strong position in business aircraft thrust reversers and nacelles, where it also has equipment on the Cessna Citation Sovereign, Dassault Falcon 2000EX, Gulfstream G450 and Hawker 4000. Last year, Nordam also began deliveries of 60 shipsets of cabinetry for the Pilatus PC-12 from its new 468,000-sq-ft interiors and structures facility at Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“One of our primary objectives for this year and next is to focus on building up our engineering capabilities,” said Ferrari. “We’ve got some very talented engineers and good programs with original equipment manufacturers.” Interestingly, he added: “Of the differences we see between North America and European manufacturers, I’d say Europe seems to be in the lead on the use of composite primary structures on airframes. A large number of airframers in Europe are going the composites route faster than they are in the U.S. We have to make sure we’re in the front of that power curve.”

Nordam has clearly opened a new chapter in its history after completing a long series of actions begun by Siegfried in 2001, when the news of his illness was confirmed. The company now looks set to capitalize on the years of planning and restructuring and with the move of its European headquarters from the Netherlands to Toulouse has taken a strategic decision to be closer to its European air transport and business aviation customers. The group is also planning to expand the size of its repair and overhaul facility in south Wales.