Boeing France, created in 2003 to formalize a French supply chain for the 787 Dreamliner, will have a lot of work to do in future years as 737 Max production quickly accelerates, the 777X project moves toward first flight and the prospective launch of the New Midsize Airplane (NMA) appears more and more likely.
Originally consisting of eight Tier 1 suppliers, including Safran, Latécoère, Thales and Zodiac Aerospace, Boeing France now encompasses 14 main suppliers, not counting approximately 100 subtier French companies working for Boeing, explained Jean-Marc Fron, managing director of Boeing France. For example, Ateliers de la Haute Garonne (fastening), Crouzet Aerospace (sensors), Figeac-Aero (airframe) all support the French Boeing team. “My mission is to facilitate access to Boeing,” said Fron. In total, the partnership generates $6 billion per year.
But that value will increase with the development of the 737 Max and 777X programs. Now building forty-two 737s a month, Boeing expects to speed that rate to 57 in 2019. Plans still call for the Dreamliner rate of 12 airplanes per month to increase to 14 by the end of the decade as well. More than 10 French suppliers participate in the Max, including Aubert & Duval (forgings, drawings), Crouzet Aerospace (detection and sensing components), Safran (power systems, engines), Lisi Aerospace (fasteners) and Thales (avionics). Figeac Aero also maintains a long-term agreement with Spirit Aerosystems for some Boeing programs, while the French company also has partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to supply large airframe components for the 777X. Meanwhile, French airframe supplier Mecachrome signed a long-term agreement in 2016 with Sweden’s Norsk Titanium to supply airframe components to the 787 among other programs.
All the French expertise could prove useful to address the new mid-market airplane that Boeing hopes to launch. The concept, presented at the Paris Air Show by Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of airplane development Mike Delaney, would use composite wings and fuselage structure based on technology developed for the 787 and 777X.
“For sure, the French suppliers could participate to this program,” concluded Fron.