Airbus Group focuses on ‘making it fly’

After collectively rebranding itself as Airbus Group in 2014, the European original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is now focused on developing international strategy across three divisions: Airbus Commercial, Airbus Helicopters, and Airbus Defence and Space.
Donough Tierney, Airbus Group’s vice president Europe and Canada, UN and multinational organizations, told Skies during the 2016 CANSEC defence show in Ottawa that the impact of Airbus Group in Canada cannot be underestimated.  
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“It’s a bit of a secret that we are so embedded in this country,” said Tierney. “We went under several names; now it’s all Airbus Group. We’ve never been at a point like this before, where we’ve achieved a new sourcing record in Canada, sourcing $1.2 billion from a total of 570 suppliers. Over 17,000 jobs are sustained in the national aerospace market through our sourcing activities.” 
Globally, Airbus Group enjoyed a successful year in 2015, with its total order book value surpassing US$1 trillion. The work translates into 10 years of future factory output, driven mainly by commercial aerospace. Tierney said the civilian sector accounts for about 75 per cent of the group’s revenues, with the remainder attributed to defence.
With about 140,000 employees worldwide—2,000 of them in Canada—Airbus Group brought in revenues of 64 billion euros company-wide last year.
Tierney said Airbus has about 150 aircraft flying in Canada for various airlines, and has sold close to 700 helicopters nation-wide. “Over the last 15 years, every second helicopter delivered in Canada has been one of ours,” he said. “Recently, the oil and gas and mining sectors have been a bit soft, however. I would say it’s business as usual [for the helicopter division] in Canada, but times have been better.”
He added that Airbus Helicopters in Fort Erie, Ont., is a company success story. Established in 1984 as an initial sales and support organization, the factory has become a composites manufacturing and export centre of excellence, bidding for and winning several internal work packages.
Similarly, Montreal-based Stelia Aerospace has grown to be the fourth-largest global supplier of aerostructures and interior aerospace parts. Tierney said Stelia’s history—an amalgamation of several smaller organizations—reflects the restructuring that is currently taking place among Tier 1 aerospace suppliers. “They are growing and investing money, taking risks, and getting bigger payoffs,” he said. “We will probably see Tier 2 and 3 restructuring as well.” 
Strategic vision
Tierney said Airbus Group has recently honed its focus.
“A few years ago, we were involved in lots of different things,” he explained. “As a group today, we organized ourselves around aviation. We decided our strategic direction would be around ‘making it fly.’ So we’re looking at those areas of business we need to invest in to grow the aeronautics side of the business.”
A perfect example is the March 2016 acquisition of Waterloo, Ont.-based Navtech, a provider of specialized navigation tools and software. “This fits in with our strategy to provide digital products and services to the aerospace industry,” said Tierney. 
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He said Airbus Group is focusing on providing products that will deliver incremental innovation in aircraft performance—sharklet specialized wingtips, for example, which improve payload and range performance of commercial passenger jets. 
“We’re also looking at disruptive innovation. We have set up a Silicon Valley operation to find the future of flight—in other words, what’s next? We also have a new UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] strategy coming out for the Group. We’ve been invested in drones for the last 10 or 15 years and have different platforms now, but exactly where we’re going to go will be announced in the next few months,” continued Tierney.
Airbus Group is also looking at ways to reorganize and improve the supply chain. 
Tierney said the OEM is still focused on landing a “major contract success” in Canada, noting that would perhaps come with the selection of the country’s new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. Airbus Defence and Space has put forward its C295 as a contender for that program, with a decision expected this fall.

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