Safran profits from spirit of Sino-French cooperation
Sichuan Snecma Aero-engine Maintenance Co. (SSAMC), a joint venture between Snecma Services, Air China and Willis Lease Finance Corp., has signed an exclusive 20-year maintenance, repair and overhaul agreement to service CFM56-5B and -7B engines powering Air China’s growing fleet of 160 aircraft. The deal covers the expansion of the SSAMC facility in Chengdu, which specializes in CFM56-3 engines, to allow it to work on -5B and -7B variants beginning in 2008. SSAMC already provides service for other Chinese operators, including Hainan Airlines, and wants more third-party business.
Meanwhile, Snecma parent Safran recently reached a framework agreement with China’s AVIC II group to license produce some components and modules for 200 Turbomeca Arriel 2C engines. The turboshafts are to power China’s new H425 light helicopter, designed and produced by AVIC II subsidiary Harbin Aviation Industry. The engine components and modules will be made by another AVIC II company, the China National South Aero Engine Corp. (SAEC), which since the 1980s has produced the Arriel 1 engine under license.
Turbomeca has also suggested cooperation with AVIC II on its Ardiden engine for five-ton-class helicopters and especially for the new Eurocopter 175 helicopter. At the same time, Safran landing gear subsidiary Messier-Dowty is bidding to join the program, and its sibling Sagem Defense Securite wants to supply the autopilot and other avionics.
Francois Courtot, Safran’s senior vice president for international development, told Aviation International News that Turbomeca is also negotiating to establish another joint venture with Beijing Changkong Machinery Ltd. to assemble and test Arriel 1 and Arrius 2F regulators. The French group has already announced a plan for a joint venture production of low-pressure turbine blades and nozzles for CFM56 engines at Guiyang in China.
Since the merger last year of Snecma and Sagem to form Safran, the new group employs 3,400 people in its joint ventures and in its offices in China. The four joint venture production plants include the landing gear components producer at Suzhou, near Shanghai, and the civil aircraft repair shop at Chengdu. The two other facilities manufacture mobile telephones at Ningbo and smartcards at Wuhan. In addition, nine Chinese factories in the AVIC I and AVIC II groups manufacture many high-tech components for CFM56 airliner engines, helicopter powerplant and landing gear.
Courtot said that India is also an important part of Safran’s business strategy in Asia. One business opportunity is a 50/50 joint venture with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. that will manufacture aircraft and helicopter engines starting mid-year.
The group already employs 300 engineers at Safran Aerospace India, which designs aerospace components and software. Courtot confirmed that Safran is seeking an airline that operates with around 300 engines as a partner in its plan for a new CFM engine maintenance center in India. He believes this project could come to fruition in the next two years. Safran’s Snecma operation is a 50/50 partner with General Electric in the CFM International aero engine joint venture.