x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

First wing parts shipped from Strata's Al Ain aerospace plant

Abu Dhabi's Mubadala-owned facility set to be global aviation production powerhouse, as company officials reveal ambitions for future.

A new aircraft parts plant in Al Ain has officially joined the global aerospace supply chain by making its first products for commercial aircraft.

The contract is part of a US$2.7 billion (Dh9.91bn) order book it has secured from Airbus and other companies.

Mubadala Aerospace said its components manufacturing business, Strata, had shipped out the first wing parts, called flap track fairings, that will be used on Airbus A330 aeroplanes.

Mubadala Aerospace is a unit of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

The achievement comes just 12 months after the completion of the 21,600 square metre facility.

Homaid al Shemmari, the executive director of Mubadala Aerospace, said: "In a very short period of time this is a major achievement, which adds to the credibility that when Abu Dhabi sets its mind to delivering something and achieving a goal, no matter how hard or difficult it may be, it manages to achieve that goal."

Strata has 10-year contracts from Airbus, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy and Fischer Advanced Composite Components (FACC) of Austria.

Officials said Strata was in final negotiations, expected to be completed by the end of this month, for more work from Boeing. It was also in talks with SABCA of Belgium which, like FACC, is a major supplier to Airbus and Boeing commercial aircraft.

Strata is part of Mubadala's overall strategy of creating a global aerospace powerhouse at Al Ain worthy of being mentioned alongside Seattle and Toulouse, respectively the headquarters of Boeing and Airbus production.

The plant is expected to become profitable within five years and deliver high-margin returns due to favourable economic conditions, including the lack of taxes and low labour and energy costs, said Ross Bradley, the chief executive of Strata.

The company has set a target of becoming one of the top 20 composite aerospace parts suppliers in the next five years and reaching revenues of $1bn a year by 2020.

Its overall investments to date include an allocation of $500 million for the existing plant plus two additional phases that will eventually cover more than 70,000 square metres of floor space.

The company is targeting a market worth $35bn a year for composite parts, with good growth prospects forecast given the increasing use of the lightweight, durable materials in commercial aircraft.

Whereas Boeing used composite materials in about 4 per cent of its older 747 planes, its new 787 Dreamliner is about 45 per cent made of composites.

Mr Bradley, who comes from the UK aerospace industry and worked at companies including BAE Systems and the Farnborough Aerospace Consortium, said he was persuaded to join Strata in 2008 because of the "sheer audacity" of entering a mature market with hopes of becoming a top supplier within a decade.

"I've been in this industry all my life and I've worked everywhere in world, and I'm telling you this could not have been done anywhere else," he said.

"This really surprised the two major companies, Boeing and Airbus, how quality products can be transferred out of mature facilities that have been around for 50 years and brought across the world to a brand new facility, and produced to what I would say is a higher-quality standard and certainly at a competitive price."

Mr Bradley described the facility as a "21st-century plant and probably the most efficiently laid-out plant in the industry because we've had the opportunity to design this facility on experiences [from] all around the world".

Strata is under contract to produce wing and tail section parts for the Airbus A330, A340 and A380, and expects to secure work packages on the A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner soon. It will also produce tail parts for ATR aircraft from Alenia Aeronautica.

Although its present focus is on "build-to-print" jobs, Strata has planned a progression into more in-house design and engineering work, with the eventual aim of becoming a risk-sharing partner on future aircraft platforms with Airbus and Boeing, company officials said.

It is also actively considering opportunities to produce composites parts for aircraft engines and is open to working on military aircraft, Mr Bradley said.

igale@thenational.ae