UK-based GKN Aerospace has opened a new engineering and technology center at its site at Filton, near Bristol, as part of an ongoing program to add to its global engineering capability. The center, GKN’s fourth, will focus on future wing structure design and manufacture.
GKN Aerospace has been awarded a contract for the design, development and production of transparencies for Bombardier’s Global 7000 and Global 8000 business jets. Initial test items will be delivered in 2013.
The contract includes both the cockpit and passenger cabin windows that will incorporate GKN’s CrystalVue I abrasion resistant coating for the ultra-long-range business jets. Design and production will take place at the GKN facility in Garden Grove, California.
Despite its recent successes, GKN hasn’t had everything its own way. In December 2011, it lost out to Korea Aerospace Industries for some wing structures work for Airbus A320s. According to then Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders, the European airframer opted to send the work to Korea for “purely competitive reasons,” and, in January, he stated that “GKN did not make the upmost effort to come up with a competitive offer.”
Last month’s breakthrough in winning a contract to supply Boeing with complex machined titanium and aluminum parts and assemblies for the horizontal stabilizer of the new 787-9 Dreamliner widebody is the prime example of GKN Aerospace’s recent success in keeping its backlog buoyant.
GKN Aerospace has just shipped the 750th spares assembly for the Tornado fighter from its plant in Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK. The company was awarded a maintenance contract by BAE Systems in 2006 as part of the ATTAC (availability transformation: Tornado aircraft) agreement. Under the contract, which runs until at least 2016, GKN Aerospace is responsible for a range of Tornado aircraft structures, including ammunition boxes and rudders.
The April 27 opening of GKN Aerospace’s new manufacturing and assembly facility for composite wing structures at Bristol in the UK represents a £170 million ($270 million) investment that the company believes will see it significantly boost its presence in the sector over the next 30 to 40 years.
Dassault Aviation has awarded GKN Aerospace a life-of-program contract to design and build the wing movable surfaces for its next-generation, super mid-sized (SMS) business jet. It is one of the first major system supplier selections to be announced for the long-anticipated program. The work likely will be done at GKN’s Filton operation in the UK, which to date has focused mainly on wing production for Airbus.
Even during the most unsettling periods of the recent economic downturn, GKN Aerospace continued to invest heavily in being at aerospace’s technological leading edge. Prime evidence of this is its leadership role in the establishment of the UK’s new National Composites Centre, where work is due to start this summer.
When GKN Aerospace CEO Marcus Bryson gets bullish about market conditions it is probably worth paying attention. He was quick to identify the full extent of the downturn triggered by the global financial crisis and has generally erred more toward the “glass-half-empty” view than seeing the glass as being half full.
Not so long ago, the ascent of composites in aerostructures manufacturing seemed an unstoppable progression that could only happen at the expense of metals. Fresh thinking at progressive companies like GKN Aerospace is changing that thinking, with engineers increasingly coming to the conclusion that the two families of materials can coexist in cooperative harmony to give manufacturers the best of both worlds.