Archive for Sunday, August 21, 2011

Aviation suppliers, subcontractors see booming business

August 21, 2011


— As orders for more commercial airplanes take off, Wichita area aviation suppliers and subcontractors are busy and making plans for more equipment, expanding some operations and hiring more employees.

The burst in commercial airline activity has been good for companies that work with such manufacturers as Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier.

The Wichita Eagle reported one example is Exacta, which produces parts for Boeing, is installing new assembly stations machines and planning to start running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We love it,” said Casey Voegeli, Exacta director of business operations. “We want to take it on.”

The activity comes as commercial planemakers boost delivery rates and bring on new aircraft, such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 747-8, Airbus’ A350XWB and Bombardier’s CSeries.

“The supply chain is strained,” Airbus executive vice president for engineering Charles Champion said in an interview from France after the Paris Air Show. “It will be even more strained by us, by Boeing, by Embraer and by Bombardier.... That’s going to be a challenge.”

Aircraft manufacturers took in more than $100 billion in new orders at the Paris Air Show in June. That includes Airbus, which announced orders for 730 aircraft at the show. And last month, American Airlines announced an order for hundreds of Boeing and Airbus airliners.

Boeing and Airbus are slowly increasing production of narrowbody airliners — the 737 and A320 respectively — to 42 a month each to meet increased demand.

Jim Albaugh, Boeing’s head of its commercial aircraft division, has said the company could increase production to 60 a month by the end of the decade.

The demand for commercial airliners is good news for Wichita suppliers, which have struggled because of the economic downturn that hit the city’s business jet manufacturers.

“The message gets sent how bleak it is for Hawker and for Cessna and for Lear,” Voegeli said. “But I think everybody forgets what Boeing is putting out.”

The Wichita suppliers who do work for Boeing or Spirit are hiring, Voegeli said.

About 35 percent of Exacta’s work is for Boeing. It also has won work as general aviation planemakers shift more work outside their own companies, Voegeli said.

As a result, Exacta has hired 50 employees this year and plans to add 20 more by the end of the year. It now employs 180, more than it did before the economic downturn.


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