The Aviation Industries of Romania and Bulgaria Are Increasing Their Take off Speed

Wester companies transfer their production to our region

The Aviation Industries of Romania and Bulgaria Are Increasing Their Take off Speed

The repair base of Lufthana Technik in Sofia

Снимка: EconomyMagazine

Автор: Vladimir Mitev

Western aerospace companies more and more often see Romania and Bulgaria as suitable places for transferring their production. Investment intentions or already implemented projects are part of the trend for the industry in the EU to be moved from the West to the East making use the cheaper labour, lower capital taxes and the engineers that are available at different places. After western investors created an industrial base in the countries of the Visegrád Group, they are now moving to the East. According to the site Aerospace & Defense Meetings, Poland currently has more than 150 companies in the field of aviation, more than 25,000 workers in the sector, and more than 90 % of the production is for export. Romania and Bulgaria are also going in this direction, although still on a more modest scale.

The repair base of Lufthana Technik that serves the airplanes of 60 world air carriers, such as Lufthansa, Swiss Airways, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Austria Airways, Ryanair, etc., operates in Sofia. In October 2017 the company announced, together with Bulgarian Airways Group, an investment of new EUR 40 million, with which the total investment for the ten-year presence of the German company in Bulgaria will become EUR 100 million. The company’s intentions are to reach a total number of 1,399 employees in the Bulgarian capital. Base and line maintenance of airplanes - specialty of only 6 of the company’s bases in the world – is carried out in Sofia. For now, only narrow-body aircrafts of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 family can be serviced. But after the planned expansion with a new hangar, 3 new production lines, a 6-storey building, and when the timetable of the new capacities allows, wide-body aircrafts will also be serviced - in several years at the earliest.

In September 2017 the construction of an aircraft parts plant of the French Latecoere Group was started near Plovdiv. It will receive EUR 6 million under the Juncker plan - part of a contract for a total of EUR 55 million, which the European Investment Bank will give to the company. The investment is expected to be launched by the end of March. Airbus will be the main client for the production of the plant near Plovdiv.

According to Thierry Mootz, Director of Operations at Latecoere, the area of the plant will be 5,000 sq. m. For the first 3 years, the investment amounts to EUR 15 million. 200 workers will be appointed at the start. Subsequently, the enterprise may expand its capacity depending on the orders of Airbus. "Small nodes for the doors of the aircrafts and the electrical distribution cabinets, intended for the electronic part of the aircrafts, will be produced in the plant", Mootz claims. The aviation nodes will be for the doors of Airbus A320 and A330 airplanes.

Airbus is also among the largest powers of the Romanian aerospace industry. The Premium Aerotec factory in Ghimbav suburb near Brașov, is 100% owned by the Airbus Group. It produces fuselage components in Romania. The initial investment was for EUR 40 million. In order to be implemented, the Romanian state supported it with EUR 19 million. As Economy Magazine wrote earlier, the government’s support is of extreme importance for our northern neighbours for the development of the automotive industry. Obviously, the same policy is applied for attracting investments in the aerospace industry.

The plant in Ghimbav has 900 employees, and the plans are for their number to grow. In 2016, the company turnover increased with 15% and reached RON 274.5 million (EUR 58.9 million). The net profit was RON 78.4 million (EUR 16.8 million). Premium Aerotec has around 10,000 employees globally and a turnover of EUR 2 billion.

Airbus also develops a partnership with the state-owned enterprise IAR Ghimbav, based in this suburbs of Brașov, too. Helicopters are being assembled there. Clients of that enterprise can be found all over the world. It is expected that the Romanian army will also become a client of the Brașov plant that is specialized in the production of H215M helicopters of the Super Puma family. The investment in Ghimbav is for EUR 15 million, and the state support is EUR 5 million. It is expected that 350 people will work in the factory.

H215M is a helicopter that can transported 24 people. It can be used for emergency medical assistance, by the police, for VIP transfers, and it also has a military version. Its initial price is EUR 13 million.

During the visit of the French President Emmanuel Macron in August 2017 in Bucharest, a cooperation agreement between Airbus Helicopters and IAR Ghimbav was signed. Its goal was to extend their "exclusive cooperation" on the construction of the H215M helicopter. Under the terms of the agreement, IAR will be the main partner for future orders of the produced helicopter, when the Romanian Ministry of Defence begins to replace its obsolete aircrafts. Thus, Airbus Helicopters and IAR will cooperate in the modernisation of the Romanian Army.

"We are proud that we have extended our cooperation as a result of the long-term trust between IAR and Airbus Helicopters," declared at that time Neculai Banya - General Director of the Romanian enterprise that is a contract partner. He added that up to that moment, IAR had constructed more than 360 helicopters under licence from Airbus Helicopters, which convinces us that the work on H215M will be successful.

There is another investment in the same sector in Moldovenești - 45 km from Cluj-Napoca and 14 km from the tourist centre of Turda. The company Sonaca manufactures parts for the wings of the Airbus airplanes. It is also a supplier to Brazil's aerospace industry.

The company Aerostar, a supplier of parts and aviation structures for the global aviation industry, operates in Bacău - a city in the Romanian region of Moldavia. Business partners of the plant are clients such as Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Premium Aerotec, Dassault, Gulfstream, Boeing, Bombardier.

Aerostar Bacău invests large amounts of money in the area of the Iași International Airport. It has announced its intention to found an enterprise for maintenance of aircrafts of the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 families. The investment there is estimated at EUR 10 million.

In 2016, the revenues of Aerostar Bacău were RON 365.2 million (EUR 78.3). The company is one of the biggest exporters from the Romanian region of Moldovia. Its markets are in the EU, Asia, Africa and Canada. The company is also a large employer - with around 2,000 employees.

The Turbomecanica factory in Bucharest can be found on the map of the Romanian aerospace industry. It is one of the main suppliers of the Romanian Ministry of Defence. It also sells to world giants, such as General Electric, Rolls Royce and Leonardo Helicopters. The plant began its existence in 1975, after Romania decided to develop its aerospace sector. In 1980, the company already cooperated with Rolls Royce in the field of engines. The plant had also a cooperation with the Soviet Union in making a helicopter engine.

Today, Turbomecanica produces mechanical assemblies for PUMA helicopters, engines and other equipment.

Romanians take pride in their aerospace industry beginning its existence in 1925, and that the first entirely Romanian plane took off in 1930. One of the well-known aero engineers Henri Coandă claimed in his lifetime that he had created the first jet aircraft in the world - a claim that some accept as being true, while others refute. Anyway, as in other sectors, Romanians believe that they have the necessary accumulations and traditions in order to develop their aerospace industry - with their own capital or with foreign investments. Will, however, Romania and Bulgaria reach regional leaders in this field such as Poland? A man is as big as his dreams are.

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