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RTI strengthening ties with Airbus: Hickton

Keywords: Tags  RTI International Metals, titanium, Dawne Hickton, Airbus, Mobile, EADS, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Titanium producer RTI International Metals Inc. is looking to boost its involvement with Airbus SAS downstream as the European aircraft builder prepares to open its first U.S. assembly plant.

With the planned opening of Airbus’ Mobile, Ala., manufacturing facility, RTI wants to “grow our North American strategy” with the company beyond mill products, RTI vice chairwoman, president and chief executive officer Dawne S. Hickton said.

“We actually are already manufacturing some parts for them on a prototype format,” Hickton said during a conference call with investors to discuss quarterly results. She didn’t provide further details other than to say that it was part of RTI’s longer-term strategy for its business with Airbus.

France-based Airbus broke ground recently on the $600-million facility, which is expected to employ 1,000 when assembly of single-aisle jets begins around 2015 (, July 3).

Pittsburgh-based RTI is already the major North American supplier of titanium mill products to Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. N.V. (EADS), through a long-term supply contract. Its 2012 shipments to Airbus rose to more than 6 million pounds, in part due to another supplier’s inability to provide material. That amount is expected to end up “a bit less” than 6 million pounds this year (, Feb. 11).

Meanwhile, RTI’s new electron-beam furnace in Canton, Ohio, a critical component in the company’s move to increase its engine business, is now in “commercial production,” Hickton said. It has completed the qualification process for internally sourced materials and is on schedule to start melting materials for customers by the end of the third quarter.

In June 2011, RTI—which historically has been more involved in the airframe sector than in engines—signed its first long-term engine supply agreement in years with MTU Aero Engines GmbH, under which it will provide the German manufacturer with rotor-grade billet through 2022 (, June 23, 2011).

Hickton also said RTI’s new forging operation in Martinsville, Va., is “fully certified.” While Martinsville’s capacity can be expanded to include rolling if the market grows sufficiently, she said she doesn’t see that happening in the near future.

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