Production of parts for new-generation turbofan engines for airliners could double the manufacturing output of South African aeroengine company Turbomeca Africa (TMA) over the next few years. This was revealed recently by Turbomeca group chairperson and CEO Olivier Andriès.
The local company, 51%-owned by Turbomeca (itself part of French group Safran) and 49% by South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel, is busy industrialising parts for the CFM International Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion (better known as Leap) engine. The Leap is one of the powerplant options for the latest version of Airbus’ best-selling A320 single-aisle airliner family, the A320Neo (Neo standing for New Engine Option). CFM International is a 50:50 joint venture between Snecma, of France (also a part of the Safran group), and General Electric Aviation, of the US.
“The parts for the Leap are gears for the gearbox,” explained Andriès. “The main competence for TMA is in relation to gearboxes and gears, which is a competence you don’t find in many places. They are very complex parts. TMA is part of our [global] gearbox industrial strategy.” Nor is this all. “Rolls-Royce is also considering adding new parts for [production by] Turbomeca Africa,” he reported.
Andriès was in South Africa to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of the creation of Turbomeca Africa. “I have visited many Turbomeca sites around the world and I can confirm, with pleasure, that Turbomeca Africa is a benchmark,” he said in his speech at the anniversary function.
TMA both manufactures parts for, and under- takes the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of, aeroengines. The company produces parts for the Turbomeca Arriel, Arrius and Makila helicopter engines and for Rolls-Royce Tay engines for Gulfstream business jets. Indeed, Rolls-Royce is TMA’s biggest single customer.
The local company undertakes MRO of Turbomeca Arrius, Makila and Tumo engines. The Tumo powers the Eurocopter Puma helicopter, while the Makila powers the Eurocopter Super Puma/Cougar helicopter family, the Denel Oryx and Denel Rooivalk helicopters of the South African Air Force (SAAF) and will power upgraded Pumas of the UK Royal Air Force. Various versions of the Arrius power Eurocopter EC 120 and EC 135 helicopters, the Russian Kamov Ka-226T helicopter and provide one of the powerplant options for the AgustaWestland A109 helicopter. SAAF A109s are powered by the Arrius.
Some 90% of the engines which undergo MRO at TMA come from outside South Africa. They come from all over the world. The local facility is one of only two in the world authorised to work on the Tumo engine, the other being in France. In fact, the French Defence Ministry is one of TMA’s MRO clients. Moreover, the South African plant is one of only three in the world authorised to work on Turbomeca engine fuel control units – very complex and essential components. The other two are Turbomeca itself, in France, and Turbomeca USA.
TMA’s MRO capacity is about 200 engines a year. When it was set up in 2002, its MRO business amounted to about 40 engines a year. Work peaked in 2008, with 194 engines. Then the global recession hit, and work dropped to 136 engines in 2009 and 131 in 2010, but recovered to 183 last year. The company’s target for this year is about 190 engines.
Heat treatment and surface treatment processes are integral to the work of TMA, so the company, which had previously outsourced these activities to Denel (mainly to nearby Denel Aerostructures – DAe), decided to bring them in-house. Last year, TMA invested R50-million in doing so – R15-million for heat treatment and R35-million for surface treatment equipment. Most of this was bought off DAe, because DAe works mainly with aluminium and only makes limited use of such capabilities. Now, when DAe needs steel heat and/or surface treatment, TMA does it for them and, in return, DAe does whatever aluminium work TMA requires.