Safran Messier-Dowty Landing Gear Unit Set to Benefit From Widebody Demand

Safran SA’s Messier-Dowty unit, the world’s biggest maker of landing-gear, has positioned itself to benefit from demand for widebody planes, which it expects will grow faster in the next five years than sales of other aircraft, said the division’s chief.

Widebody production will pick up “significantly” between now and 2015, even as demand for single aisle-planes is still growing, with both Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. increasing output, said Messier-Dowty Chief Executive Officer Pascal Senechal. Messier-Dowty has relied mainly on Airbus to buy its landing gear in past decades, with A320 narrowbodies taking more than 4,500 sets to date.

The Safran unit’s widebody business was boosted when Boeing chose it, rather than Goodrich Corp., to equip the 787 Dreamliner. Messier-Dowty has also won contracts to supply the nose landing gear on the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and the main landing gear on the new long-range A350, Senechal said.

In “tomorrow’s market, with the 787 coming on stream, and the A350, and the tapering off of the Airbus A330, our activities will be principally focused on the big twin-aisle planes,” said Senechal at in interview in Bidos, a village on the edge of the French Pyrenees where Messier-Dowty specializes in making hydraulic shafts for landing gear.

Increased Production

Airbus is raising single-aisle production to 40 a month in 2012 from 34, and Boeing is lifting it to 38 a month in 2013 from 31.5 now. Narrowbody production will stabilize between 2015 and 2020, Senechal predicted.

Growth will come mainly in the twin-aisle market, Senechal said. Messier-Dowty is building eight to nine landing gear sets for twin-aisles each month, and that will grow to more than 20 by 2015, he said. He declined to give revenue projections for the unit.

Last year, 92 percent of Messier-Dowty’s Bidos-plant sales came from commercial planes and 8 percent from military.

Until now less than 1 percent of Messier-Dowty’s sales have come from Boeing commercial planes, because the 787 is Messier- Dowty’s first Boeing commercial plane program and the model’s not yet in service, Senechal said.

After 787 deliveries start, Boeing will contribute 15 percent of sales by 2015, Senechal predicted. Deliveries of the Dreamliner are set to begin early next year, after delays pushed the plane program back by three years.

Deliveries of the A350 are set to start in 2013. A380 deliveries began at a crawl in 2007 and are now coming at a rate of two a month.

Lead Time

The price of landing gear shipsets represents as much as 2 percent of a plane’s total cost, with widebodies selling generally for between $150 million and $250 million.

Landing gear is the longest lead item after engines in commercial aircraft, because of the early planning required with aircraft makers for integrating the landing gear into the airframe and also due to sourcing, requiring as much as 18 months.

“Landing gear is a good thermometer for measuring activity in the planemaking sector,” said Senechal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse, France, via aerothman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net;

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