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General-automatics

Safran committed to India’s Aerospace Growth

Hyderabad. Tucked away in the vicinity of Hyderabad’s Rajive Gandhi international airport at Shamshabad is the Safran’ CFM Training Centre taking the aircraft maintenance engineers through their paces to learn line maintenance and more on the CFM’s two major engines CFM56-5B for the Airbus A320 and CFM56-7B for Boeing 737, respectively. The training is hands on as the centre has live engines of both the versions of the highly popular and most widely used CFM56 engine on the single-aisle, narrow-bodied aircraft. Popularity of the CFM engines can be gauged from the fact that more than 1,500 engines are being produced every year at the Safran Group’s two facilities, one each in France and US while a huge backlog continues to remain for the additional new aircraft, already ordered and in the pipeline.

For the less initiated, Safran has emerged as a huge high-tehnology group with revenue in excess of $20 billion per annum employing 66,200 employees worldwide, with three core businesses – Aerospace, Defence and Security. Its aerospace business (almost 90 per cent of its total business) has Snecma (for airplane engines), Turbomeca (helicopter engines), Messier-Bugati-Dowty (landing gears + wheels/brakes); also engineering services, space equipments, aircraft wiring and nacelles, etc. Sagem represents its defence business in the field of inertial navigation platforms and other avionics (with combat aircraft power plants already included in the aerospace section) while Morpho represents its security business.

Safran’s presence in India started in the 1950s with the sale of equipment for airplanes and helicopters. Since then this unbroken relationship has continued to evolve to include production and support through partnerships with Indian industry. Presently, India is the 5th biggest in terms of Safran’s workforce after France, USA, Morocco and Mexico. Its current highly skilled workforce of 2,600 is likely to go up to 3,000 by end 2014.

Safran’s biggest contributor to its business is its aerospace sector that too the engine manufacturing sector which accounts for more than 90 per cent of its revenue generation. Its CFM56 variants with an unprecedented reliability of 99.98 per cent are notching up one million flight hours every week with a take-off being carried out every 3.2 seconds around the world.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has used Safran engines in terms of Turbomeca engines for the helicopters and Snecma M53 engines for its Mirage 2000 fleet. Safran will have up to 1/3rd share of the Rafale deal, when it fructifies with Snecma M88 variant engines being used for the twin-engined fighter.

Safran boasts of ploughing back as much as 10 to 12 per cent of its revenue into R&D. This has resulted in it being in the forefront of making best equipment in the world. Its latest LEAP (Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion) engine is all set to power the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C 919 single-aisle aircraft soon being rolled out by the respective aircraft manufacturers and will be replacing the CFM56-5B and CFM56-7B powering the current models which incidentally will also carry on for quite some time given the huge backlog in the already placed orders. Eventually, LEAP engines are likely to be the mainstay for Safran in this segment with a forecast of more than 6,000 engines being produced in times to come.

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