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Airbus is having trouble with nacelle contract

The aircraft manufacturer has awarded a long-term contract to the American supplier UTC. The outsourcing of the production of nacelles is causing resentment in France.

«We note that the USA and China are protecting their aerospace industry», said French Minister of Trade and Commerce Bruno Le Maire in mid-June. To ensure that the domestic industry does not fall behind in the corona crisis, he announced investments of 15 billion euros. Airbus will also benefit from this.

For example, the state is placing several orders in advance. It also wants to support the development of an A320 successor with an innovative propulsion system that produces little or no emissions. While the state is supporting the domestic aviation industry, Airbus has now placed an order with a company in  the USA. This is not going down well everywhere.

Jobs and future viability at risk

Jean-Louis Chauzy, President of the Economic and Social Council of the Occitania region, explains that the aircraft manufacturer has awarded the contract for the production of nacelles – i.e. the casing of the engines – for the Pratt & Whitney engines of the A320 Neo exclusively to the American company United Technologies UTC for ten years. His accusations are manifold and strong. For example, he argues that domestic research and production of engine nacelles is important for the development of the innovative engine of the future.

In this central project, Airbus would destroy its own and France’s future viability with the current outsourcing, he argues. Instead of pushing ahead with production, research and development in France, the aircraft manufacturer is relying on an American company that manufactures in Mexico and China. However, the President of the Regional Council also sees up to 350 jobs at Airbus in direct danger, as well as around 100 more in the context of research programmes.

Airbus justifies decision with Corona

In the long term, Chauzy is even worried about the future of the entire production site in Nantes, which has around 3500 employees. He also accuses Airbus of not even having consulted France, Germany and Spain, the countries involved in the group, before awarding the contract. Chauzy calls on France’s Minister of Trade and Commerce, Le Maire, to intervene.

To newspaper La Dépêche du Midi, Airbus confirmed that it had signed a contract with UTC. «We had started to develop nacelle production internally, but this programme was interrupted due to the consequences of the Corona crisis» the plane manufacturer said. Therefore, the company had been looking for a partner who could offer an attractive price.

Parent company of Pratt & Whitney

UTC is also present in Toulouse, explains Airbus. This could benefit other local suppliers. In addition, it is quite possible that in the future the company itself will resume production of the engine cases.

UTC is the parent company of engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. At the beginning of April 2020, the company merged with the American defence and electronics group Raytheon to form the corporate giant Raytheon Technologies.

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