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GKN Expands Globally with a Mix of Services

 - February 18, 2016, 9:15 AM
GKN performs turbine aero-engine frame manufacturing at its Aerospace Engine Systems division in Trollhattan Sweden.

In the coming two years, GKN Aerospace a “global first-tier supplier of airframe structures, engine components, transparencies, and fuel/flotation systems,” says that it will start producing Boeing jetliner engine-intake lip skins and introduce an airliner-window servicing operation.

The British company also has been selected as a core partner in two projects within the European Union (EU) Clean Sky 2 (CS2) environmental-research project and completed the acquisition of Fokker Technologies in October 2015.  Acquiring Fokker increases GKN’s global footprint, including inroads into Asia as a supplier.

First production of one- and two-piece lip skins for Boeing 737 Max and 777X, respectively, is scheduled to begin in late 2016 from the new GKN Aerospace South Carolina factory, alongside its existing assembly facility in Orangeburg (close to Boeing Propulsion’s own facility there), with supporting technology-development work being conducted at GKN’s premises in Camarillo, California.

At full production, the new 126,000-sq-ft plant is expected to employ more than 75. GKN will “install all of the major capital equipment to ensure that planned production rates are attained.”

The Orangeburg expansion is directly tied to its recent acquisition of Sheets Manufacturing, according to Daniele Cagnatel, GKN Aerospace Aerostructures North America chief executive, who said that site selection was also influenced by “our ongoing success in our existing facility.”

GKN Aerospace expects to open its new Transparencies Aftermarket Service (TAS) facilities in Europe during 2016 and in Asia by mid-2017, following initial operations from the company’s aircraft-window manufacturing plant in Garden Grove, California. The new service aims to meet commercial operators’ demands for “ever faster, more responsive and more cost-effective cockpit- and cabin-window maintenance.”

GKN Aerospace TAS will offer a “comprehensive window repair, framing and exchange” service to passenger and cargo carriers that is claimed to offer “up to 20-percent savings” on airlines’ current expenditure on such requirements. The operation draws on GKN Aerospace’s strength in the aircraft transparencies market, in which it provides flight deck and passenger cabin windows (or glazings) to “almost all” airlines, with more than two million passenger windows said to be in service as standard fit on all Boeing and Embraer aircraft and a large portion of the Airbus fleet.

The company claims that the service will lower maintenance costs by reducing necessary inventory holdings, offering very cost-effective repair or replacement (with accelerated turnaround times), and providing “ultra-reliable” AOG maintenance, repair and overhaul.

“TAS combines the capability of a world-class Tier 1 original equipment manufacturer [OEM] with the service and responsiveness [of] third-party repair stations,” said GKN Aerospace Special Products Group senior vice-president Gavin Wesson. GKN Aerospace supports operators such as Air Canada, Alitalia, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Iberia, Lufthansa, UPS, and Federal Express.

Clean Sky 2

GKN Aerospace’s Clean Sky 2 core-partner activities, which will be conducted at its aero-engine centers in Sweden and Norway, involve major contributions to the program’s Engines project, led by Safran, Rolls-Royce, and MTU, and the Airbus-led Large Passenger Aircraft project.

The teams will design, develop and manufacture complicated structural and rotating parts for full-scale integrated technology demonstrators. These will use new processes and technologies, automation techniques, joining methods and additive manufacturing technologies, all with the aim of reducing weight by 15-30 percent.

CS2, which runs until 2024, aims to enhance and continue the current Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative, which ends in two years’ time. Principal objectives include reducing perceived noise and CO2 and NOx emissions.

According to Trollhättan-based GKN EU research and technology programs director Robert Lundberg, “Clean Sky 1 brought remarkable levels of technological progress and, with the [program] expansion in CS2, we will take these innovations far closer to market readiness.

“The target is to help achieve challenging ACARE [Advisory Council for Aviation Research and innovation in Europe] goals, including 50 percent reductions in aircraft emissions.”

The company says its systems are present on “almost all” current engine programs. Components designed and manufactured by GKN Aerospace Engine Systems include turbine, combustor and compressor structures, fan blades, cases and bladed discs (“blisks”), compressor rotors, low-pressure turbine cases, shafts and vanes.

GKN Aerospace is one of four company divisions that operate in the aerospace, automotive and land systems markets. In July, parent group GKN announced an agreement to acquire Netherlands Tier 1 aerospace supplier Fokker Technologies Group for around €700 million ($775 million). The Dutch company specializes in aerostructures, electrical wiring systems, landing gear and associated services to commercial, military and business-aviation manufacturers. The purchase was finalized in October 2015.

For its part, the buyer sees Fokker Technologies as an excellent fit for its business, claiming the move elevates GKN Aerospace to “No. 2 in aerostructures and No. 3 in electrical wiring systems,” extends its footprint into China, India, Mexico and Turkey, and expands the company’s technology and product capabilities. With potential operational improvements identified and with a “good reputation for customer service,” Fokker is said to extend GKN’s OEM relationships and enhance its position on key “growth platforms” in both the commercial and military markets.

Like GKN group, Fokker has four divisions: aerostructures, electrical systems, landing gear and services. It is seen as “well positioned on attractive programs,” including the Airbus A320, A350 and A380; Boeing 737 and 777; Bombardier CSeries; Gulfstream G650; Lockheed Martin F-35; NH Industries NH90; Rolls-Royce Trent 500, Trent 1000, and Trent XWB; and the United Technologies/Pratt & Whitney PW1000G.

Last year, Fokker generated 30 percent of its revenues from the defence market and 20 percent from business aviation.