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.
GKN Aerospace has been selected to build the entire fuselage for the HondaJet, the UK-based aerostructures specialist said today at a press conference in London. It will build the all-composite fuselage in two sections before they are combined. Production fuselage sections are due to start being delivered in the second quarter of next year to Honda Aircraft for final assembly at its Greensboro, N.C. facility.
Aerostructures specialist GKN Aerospace presented its 2010 supplier awards to five companies yesterday at the Farnborough airshow: All Metal Services, Onamac Industries, High-Tech Engineering, Magellan Aerospace and Doncaster Bramah.
• All Metal Services’ award was in the regional supplier-Europe category, for supplying aluminum cut plate and extrusions.
GKN Aerospace has surfed into the Farnborough airshow on a wave of more than $1.5 billion worth of development and production contracts signed in recent months. The UK-based group says the new business will take it well “into the next decade and beyond.”
The aerospace industry has been more resilient than expected to the impact of the financial crisis and, as a consequence, the long-anticipated steep downturn in airliner output has not materialized and probably will not materialize. This was the uncharacterically bullish perspective of GKN Aerospace CEO Marcus Bryson, who since 2008 has been warning of a decline in output and income and bracing the aerostructures maker for impact.
GKN Aerospace has delivered the first windshields as part of a contract with Boeing to design and develop, bird-strike test and qualify the new anti-spall windshields for the Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft. The new windshields incorporate GKN’s anti-spall (spraying of glass fragments) technology, which provides pilot protection in the event of bird strike and at the same time incorporates a 5-percent weight reduction.
GKN has selected Germany’s Brötje Aerospace to supply an advanced moving line assembly system that will mate wing trailing edge and main landing gear parts onto Airbus A350XWB all-composite rear wing spars.
As for much of the aerospace sector, the need to make air transport greener is driving much of the research-and-development effort at GKN. For instance, explained chief technology officer Phil Grainger, GKN is working on a next-generation composite wing that would not need spars. This would obviously reduce airframe weight but production costs would actually rise because of the need to change the way the wings are assembled.
Market conditions have hardly been kind to aerospace these past six months or so, but when a company is celebrating its 250th birthday–as GKN is this year–it can probably afford to take the long view.