Here at the Paris Airshow, French airframer Daher is showcasing its capabilities with new materials for the first time (Hall 2A Stand B253), including a thermoplastic composite wing rib. The part was designed internally by Daher, with the company filing several patents for it, and—significantly—will be used in a yet-to-be-revealed future long-range business aircraft. Daher declined to reveal further details of the program, although it did confirm that the new aircraft type will not form part of its TBM series of single-engine turboprops, which recorded 54 deliveries in 2016.
According to Daher, the new thermoplastic technology could save up to 35 percent in weight compared to a metal wing rib, for the same cost. “This first presentation is very important for us because Boeing is considering us as one of the best suppliers of thermoplastics for aerospace,” explained Tony Thoma, v-p of marketing and communication for Daher Group. The company recently established a highly automated factory for producing thermoplastic parts near Nantes, western France.
Daher is also highlighting here in Paris its “big data” concept for production, using collaborative robots mounted on automated guided vehicles. This project is linked to the digital transformation that the company has driven into all its activities, from production to logistics.
“We are a company [focused] on both industry and services, which account for 50 percent each in our global revenues,” said Thoma. In 2016, the group achieved a turnover of €1.04 billion ($1.17 billion), with 8,500 employees. This year Daher is aiming for a slight amount of growth, to €1.1 billion turnover.
The family-owned company, which acquired Socata in 2009, has spent the past five to six years focused on becoming more robust in terms of viability. Its on-time delivery rate has increased from 85 percent a few years ago to 99.7 percent now. Daher's main customer now is Airbus, with work on several programs including the A350XWB, A320 and A380. Daher manufactures a large range of products: belly fairings, doors, ducts, wings parts, empennages and fuselage sections for various airframes (including Dassault Falcons and Airbus helicopters).
Reinforcing its presence in North America is one of the main goals for Daher, according to CEO Didier Kayat. To that end, Daher also has a presence on the U.S. pavilion here in Paris.
North America accounts for almost 20 percent of Daher revenues, mainly thanks to TBM sales. This is not enough for CEO Kayat, however. With around €300 millions of orders logged over the past four past years, Daher will still grow in America. But he wants to double this percentage during the company's next strategic plan period (2018-2022).
Daher plans to extend its relationship with Gulfstream, its best customer, with which it has around 20 work packages (wing and fuselage parts). Daher is also working with Canada’s Bombardier.
With respect to the aforementioned thermoplastics, Daher and Boeing are finalizing talks, which could be announced this week. Also, by the end of 2017 Daher will open a new logistics location, probably in Georgia, to better serve its North American customers. Already the company operates a composites factory in Nogales, Mexico, which was opened in 2010, and a logistics base in Queretaro, which is dedicated to Airbus Helicopters and opened in 2016.
Kayat said that acquisitions would be considered very cautiously, because of the high prices of American companies.
On the static display here at the show, Daher is presenting its newest TBMs, the TBM 910 with the Garmin G1000 NXi flightdeck, released in April, and the TBM 930, equipped with the touchscreen-controlled G3000 avionics suite.