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Airbus deal lifts Alcoa’s share of aero products

Dec 16, 2013 | 06:31 PM | Frank Haflich

Tags  Alcoa, Airbus, aluminum, aerospace, forgings, supply agreement, VSMPO-Avisma, Olivier Jarrault Bill Bihlman

LOS ANGELES — Alcoa Inc.’s $110-million forgings supply agreement with Airbus SAS gives the aluminum producer a larger share of some major commercial aircraft programs.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa signed a multiyear deal to supply the Toulouse, France-based aircraft maker with titanium and aluminum aerospace forgings from its recently rebuilt 50,000-ton press in Cleveland (, Dec. 16).

The agreement includes titanium forgings used to connect wing structures to engines on Airbus’ A320neo jet, which is due to enter service in October 2015. It also includes large aluminum forgings for the A330 and A380 airliners made using Alcoa’s proprietary 7085 aluminum alloy.

The volume of forgings involved in the agreement was not disclosed.

Last year, Alcoa signed a long-term supply agreement with Airbus valued at about $1.4 billion for aluminum sheet, plate and hard alloy extrusions that included more traditional and aluminum-lithium alloys (, July 11, 2012).

Alcoa’s latest contract is the company’s second recent deal involving forging activities. In October, Alcoa signed a "cooperation agreement" with Russia’s VSMPO-Avisma Corp., marking the "first step" toward establishing a joint venture for downstream titanium and aluminum aerospace products at the former’s ZAO Alcoa SMZ plant in Samara, Russia (, Oct. 22). This would presumably combine the capabilities of Samara’s 75,000-tonne press with a "sister" press of the same capacity at VSMPO, itself a major titanium supplier to Airbus.

Some observers think Alcoa’s push further into forgings reflects a move to broaden its aerospace product base as carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) composites take increasing shares of such market segments as fuselage and wing sheets.

But Olivier Jarrault, Alcoa’s executive vice president and group president of engineered products and solutions, emphasized in a statement to AMM that the company has "a strong position on both metallic and composite aircraft."

Bill Bihlman, president of South Bend, Ind.-based consulting firm Aerolytics LLC, said the agreement underlines Alcoa’s "authority in large aluminum forgings," while also positioning the company for greater participation in titanium.

The Cleveland plant is already a supplier of large titanium forgings for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The 50,000-ton press in Cleveland re-entered service last year after a three-and-a-half-year shutdown (, Feb. 1, 2012). Alcoa in August 2008 discovered cracks in the base of the press and declared force majeure shortly thereafter.

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