Bombardier exits commercial aviation

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Proposed budget boosts NASA initiatives; Industry 4.0 Accelerator launches in Michigan; Airbus reveals blended wing aircraft demonstrator

February 25, 2020

Airbus SE

Bombardier Inc. has sold its remaining shares in the Airbus Canada Limited Partnership (ACLP) to Airbus and the Government of Québec. Airbus is paying approximately $600 million cash and assuming $700 million in liabilities to obtain 75% of the A220 aircraft program. The Government of Québec increases its holding to 25% for no cash consideration.

As part of the transaction, Airbus subsidiary Stelia Aerospace acquired the A220 cockpit and aft fuselage production and A330 work package production capabilities from Bombardier in Saint-Laurent, Québec.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury says, “This agreement with Bombardier and the Government of Québec demonstrates our support and commitment to the A220 and Airbus in Canada. We are committed to this fantastic aircraft program and we are aligned with the Government of Québec in our ambition to bring long-term visibility to the Québec and Canadian aerospace industry.”

“This transaction supports our efforts to address our capital structure and completes our strategic exit from commercial aerospace,” says Alain Bellemare, Bombardier president and CEO. “We are equally proud of the responsible way in which we have exited commercial aerospace, preserving jobs and reinforcing the aerospace cluster in Québec and Canada.”

The deal caps a year of Bombardier divestitures and consolidation:

  • February 2019: Acquires Global 7500 aircraft wing program operations, assets from Triumph Group Inc.
  • March 2019: Sells Business Aircraft’s flight, technical training activities to CAE Inc.; $532 million
  • May 2019: Completes sale of the Q Series program to De Havilland Aircraft of Canada; $285 million
  • June 2019: Agrees to sell CRJ regional jet program to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.; $550 million cash, assumption of $200 million of liabilities
  • October 2019: Spirit AeroSystems Holding Inc. acquires Bombardier’s aerostructures activities and aftermarket services operations in Belfast, U.K., and Casablanca, Morocco, and its aerostructures maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility in Dallas, Texas; $500 million in cash, assumption of $700 million of liabilities

Since Airbus took majority ownership of the Bombardier CSeries program on July 1, 2018 – renaming the plane the A220 – total cumulative net orders for the aircraft have increased 64% to 658 units at the end of January 2020. In 2019, Airbus delivered 48 A220s.

While still pursuing options to pay down debt and increase liquidity, Bombardier now focuses its aviation activity on business aircraft production, increasing backlog for the second year, reaching $14.4 billion at the end of 2019.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivers the State of NASA address from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on Feb. 10, 2020.

Proposed budget boosts NASA initiatives

President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget would invest more than $25 billion in NASA to strengthen human space exploration programs while supporting the agency’s science, aeronautics, and technology work.

In his State of NASA address, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says, “The budget proposed represents a 12% increase and makes this one of the strongest budgets in NASA history. The reinforced support from the President comes at a critical time as we lay the foundations for landing the first woman and the next man on the South Pole of the Moon by 2024. This budget keeps us firmly on that path.”

NASA is developing the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Gateway for the Artemis program to build a sustainable lunar presence and eventually send humans to Mars.

The proposed budget, starting October 2020, includes more than $3 billon to develop a human landing system.

“This is the first time we have had direct funding for a human lander since the Apollo program,” Bridenstine adds.

Other space initiatives earmarked include the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, Mars sample return mission, Europa Clipper, and Earth observation missions. In aeronautics, the budget supports research on commercial supersonic aircraft, all-electric airplanes, and developing a system to make flying small drones safer and more efficient.

The U.S. Congress has the last say on spending and how much money NASA receives.

Industry 4.0 Accelerator launches in Michigan

An Industry 4.0 Accelerator program launching in Troy, Michigan aims to help small- and medium-sized technology and manufacturing companies along their digital transformation journeys.

“Industry 4.0 is challenging the way businesses operate around the globe. It’s no longer a question of whether your company will be affected by the digital transformation but when,” says Tom Kelly, executive director and CEO of Automation Alley, a technology and manufacturing business association and Industry 4.0 knowledge center.

The program, led by Automation Alley with support services from Jackson, Michigan-based business incubator Lean Rocket Lab and Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator, is a $2.5 million investment funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. with $1.3 million currently available for early-stage companies and established firms looking to commercialize products, services, or technologies within the Industry 4.0 sector.

Industry 4.0 – the convergence of the digital and physical technologies disrupting industry – includes technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced robotics, 3D printing, and digital twins.

Companies involved in the program will receive direct investment and business coaching services to help spur innovation, commercialization, and growth. The accelerator is also looking for larger firms and organizations to partner on this effort and support Industry 4.0 adoption for Michigan manufacturers.

Services will be customized to meet the needs of each participating company, including potential pilot and demonstration project funding support with customers and strategic partners, potential connections to product development partnerships with customers and strategic partners, individualized training and mentorship, company growth assessments, technical and business milestone progress planning, strategic plan development, assessing management team and talent needs, investment and fundraising strategy support, potential connections to investors and capital sources, and shared workspace opportunities.

Airbus reveals blended wing aircraft demonstrator

Airbus MAVERIC blended wing body scale-model.

At the Singapore Air Show in February, Airbus revealed its blended wing body (BWB) scale model technological demonstrator, Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls (MAVERIC).

At 2m x 3.2m (6.6ft x 10.5ft), MAVERIC resembles a smaller version of Boeing and NASA’s X-48. Begun in 2017, MAVERIC first flew in June 2019 to assess low-speed and stall dynamics. The ongoing flight-test campaign will continue until the end of Q2 2020 to analyze MAVERIC’s handling qualities, flight control, multi-objective control surfaces, and modularity.

Airbus concept for a blended wing body cabin offers passengers additional leg room and larger aisles.

The BWB configuration could reduce fuel consumption up to 20% compared to current single-aisle aircraft, and the design allows new propulsion systems and a cabin with novel passenger experience.

Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus executive vice president of engineering, says, “This technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”

The 10-person MAVERIC project team is part of the Flight Lab team within Airbus UpNext in Toulouse, France.