Aerosud and Airbus Military extend partnership with the signing of new contract

The contract will involve the manufacture of parts and assemblies for the Airbus A400M military transport aircraft.

Airbus has formally contracted South African aerospace company Aerosud for the full production of the fuselage linings, cockpit linings, galleys and wing tips for the lifespan of the A400M programme, which will provide sustained work, jobs and export revenues for the company and South Africa. Aerosud won the contract in open tender against a number of bidders in other countries.


An illustration of the A400M military transport planes

The interior linings are manufactured from advanced composite and metallic materials which are tailored to meet stringent military requirements. The wing tips are a complex aerodynamic element and also house some of the aircraft’s safety and self protection systems.

The company also supplies components to Airbus for the A320 family of aircraft and the A350XWB long-haul airliner. It manufactures avionics racks for the successful A320 Family of single-aisle jetliners, flap-track cans (components inside the wings) for the A320 Family and for the new, ultra-efficient A350XWB long-haul airliner. Aerosud manufactures the fuselage frame-clips for the A350XWB programme. These secure the skin panels covering the aircraft’s body to its skeleton-like frame of ribs and stringers.


Paul Potgieter, Aerosud Managing Director, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Johan Steyn, MD of Aerosud Aviation

The announcement coincided with the unveiling of a new Continuous Fibre Reinforced Thermo-form Plastic (CFRTP) press, one of the most capable of its kind available to the global aerospace industry. It represents a R13,6 million capital investment and offers unique capabilities in support of the A400M programme.

The CFRTP press, which has been installed in Aerosud’s plant in Pretoria, will manufacture high strength specialised products, in this case clips which attach body panels onto Airbus aircraft. The difference being that the material, which is an advanced polymer matrix reinforced with glass or carbon fibres, has similar properties to carbon fibre, however instead of taking around eight hours to cure in an industrial autoclave as carbon fibre components do, CFRTP components can be formed to a finished product in between six to eight minutes.


The new Continuous Fibre Reinforced Thermo-form Plastic (CFRTP) press

“While the CFRTP press has been developed and installed primarily for the A400M programme, it positions Aerosud – and South Africa – to expand its business with Airbus in this specialised manufacturing niche,” explained Paul Potgieter, Aerosud Managing Director.

Aerosud is therefore clearly positioning itself towards becoming a global aviation component manufacturing company by specialising in unique niche high technology manufacturing.


A component manufactured by Aerosud that will be supplied to Airbus

“I am happy to re-affirm Airbus’ commitment to South Africa and its aerospace industry,” Airbus vice-president for international co-operation Simon Ward said at the media briefing to announce the contract.

“Today Airbus-related work is the main contributor to the sector by value, and probably by volume in terms of the sheer number of parts manufactured here for our programmes. We have contracted work with local industry worth about R4 billion. Last year alone, the value of Airbus-related manufacturing in South Africa was worth around R350 million.”

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, also speaking at the briefing, said the awarding of the contract demonstrated South Africa’s capacity for advanced manufacturing, and indicated growing international confidence in the country’s aerospace industry.


The Aerosud Innovation and Training Center has recently installed a DMG Mori DMU 65 Monoblock 5-axis machining centre that was supplied by Retecon Machine Tools. A Durma AD-R 30135 CNC controlled press-brake supplied by Durma South Africa is in the background. The 135 ton 3 metre machine is used to form various formed components, mainly out of 2024 aluminium. This includes box type structures and bent-up stringers

“The aerospace industry is a strategic one, one characterised by significant levels of value-addition and technology intensity,” Davies said. “Because the global industry is heavily concentrated with complex supply chains in which suppliers have to meet the highest global standards, it is safe to state that it’s not a small achievement for a South African company to have become part of this supply chain.”

“The contract would provide sustained work, high-tech jobs and export revenues for South Africa, adding that successful military transport aircraft programmes tended historically to run for over 50 years,” continued Davies.

Aerosud has benefited from the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI), which helps local aerospace companies to meet international standards, develop and commercialise new technologies, and gain international exposure.

Davies said the DTI had, through the AISI and the National Aerospace Centre programme, provided industry investment and skills development support worth R27 million to 169 organisations in 2012. He added that Aerosud had shown how a close working relationship between the government and business was possible and sometimes necessary for companies to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace.


Track-can flanges are drilled and trimmed using a Haas VF4 vertical machining centre prior to welding and final assembly

The Minister went on to praise Aerosud’s achievements in winning the Airbus contract, and emphasised the close working relationship the company has with government through its close participation in the Centurion Aerospace Village which was initiated and supported by the DTI in order to promote the growth and development of high-tech aerospace manufacturing companies such as Aerosud alongside their suppliers, by allowing them to situate themselves within close proximity to one another. This in turn allows them to leverage joint skills development, technological collaboration and shared services, as well as joint marketing initiatives.

Aerosud employs more than 600 people, all of whom are skilled labourers, which following the signing of the new Airbus contract is set to increase to more than 800 individuals. On top of this the company expects to expand its premises and sales well into the future, with around 98 percent of all its products currently being exported.

Airbus delivered the first of a batch of 50 A400M military transport planes to the French Air Force in October 2013. South Africa is one of a number countries working on the A400M programme.

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