x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Industry flies into Strata's sphere

Abu Dhabi's ambitions to become an aerospace centre will take a crucial step forward this summer with the completion of a plant for making aircraft parts in Al Ain.

The design of Mubadala's plant in Al Ain that will make composite aircraft parts is based on FACC's  workshop in Austria.
The design of Mubadala's plant in Al Ain that will make composite aircraft parts is based on FACC's workshop in Austria.

Abu Dhabi's ambitions to become an aerospace centre will take a crucial step forward this summer with the completion of a plant for making aircraft parts in Al Ain. Mubadala Development, an investment arm of the Government, and its subsidiary, Strata Manufacturing, expect to take delivery of the plant in the next three months, said Homaid al Shemmari, the executive director of Mubadala Aerospace.

Strata is due to start making composite parts for several European aviation firms by the end of next year, Mr al Shemmari said. The plant will cover 2.16 hectares and is being built by the contractors Max Boegl of Germany and Zarooni Transemirates. The plant highlights Mubadala's investment strategy of focusing on capital-intensive and energy-intensive industries with high barriers to entry - a key feature of the aerospace business.

It formed Strata last summer and hired Ross Bradley, formerly the head of the Farnborough Aerospace Consortium, to lead the firm. The company will focus on next-generation carbon-fibre materials used in new aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350. They are lighter and stronger than aluminium, meaning fuel savings. Since 2008, the Mubadala subsidiary has already won more than US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) in work packages from Airbus, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy and FACC of Austria.

The orders include parts such as flap-track fairings, ailerons and spoilers, all made from extremely durable, lightweight composite materials. Its first product will be a glass-fibre wing component for the Airbus A330. Strata will then take on more complex carbon-fibre parts for newer planes such as the A380. Mubadala hopes to add Boeing to the list after the two firms signed a strategic agreement at the Dubai Air Show in November covering manufacturing, engineering, research and development, commercial maintenance, repair and overhaul, military maintenance, pilot training and personnel development.

Strata's employment plans call for 1,000 employees within six years. With the UAE's young population, a strong focus of Strata's hiring will focus on training Emiratis, a Mubadala spokesman said. "Fifty per cent of the [Strata] workforce will be Emiratis by the end of 2012," the spokesman said. "Next month, a new two-year programme will launch and will include 225 locals to work in the factory, 175 in operations and 75 in engineering."

The investment company's eventual goal is to expand the plant to more than 6ha and become a primary Tier 1 supplier to the world's largest aerospace makers, a group that comprises only a dozen firms, including Spirit AeroSystems of the US. Mubadala also hopes to make and market a new business aircraft in the second half of the next decade with the assistance of Piaggio Aero, an Italian business jet maker part-owned by the Abu Dhabi investment company.

Under these plans, Strata is expected to become the anchor tenant in an aerospace centre being built next to Al Ain airport, in co-ordination with the Abu Dhabi Airports Company. Other firms that have signalled interest in the centre are Germany's Aircraft Electronic Engineering, Aerotech Peissenberg, MT Aerospace, which will produce avionic systems and aerostructures, and Mistral, a Swiss aircraft engine firm.

The centre is being planned with bavAIRia, a German industrial zone. * with agencies @Email:igale@thenational.ae