Collins Aerospace executives are confident they can increase the capacity of their commercial engine nacelle operations here to meet future demands without growing their footprint or workforce, now that they have achieved delivery of the 1,000th nacelle for the A320neo program out of Foley, Alabama.

Collins aerostructures VP-Airbus programs Jim Pollock told reporters on the sidelines of a May 30 ceremony recognizing the milestone that Collins Aerospace could carry out additional lean manufacturing activities to find needed capacity internally. He further said Collins is looking into introducing thermoplastics into parts of the nacelle to help cut cost and production cycle time, as well as strengthen the engine system part.

Thermoplastics and production improvements such as robotic painting systems and advanced fastening tools are key to Collins maintaining market share on nacelles, executives indicated. OEM customers are increasingly pushing for better performance, lower cost and even better product reliability. If Collins delivers on those, according to Pollock, it should keep its supplier position against market forces that include vertical integration of manufacturing by OEMs.

“Boeing and Airbus know what our technology roadmaps are,” Pollack told ATW.

Collins Aerospace—the new name for the recently merged assets of Rockwell Collins and UTC Aerospace Systems—celebrated its 45-year relationship with Airbus by delivering the 1,000th nacelle for the A320neo program, as well as delivering the 9000th V2500 nacelle, while ramping-up of the A220 nacelle program. The relationship between the companies runs through predecessor corporations that spans 45 years and to the A300.

Collins said it has invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” to expand manufacturing capacity at six global sites across three continents for the neo nacelles, including Foley. The system is performing with 99.99% dispatch reliability. There are more than 750 Collins nacelles operating on A320neo aircraft with 32 airlines now. The Foley plant ramped up work in 3.5 years and now produces three nacelles a day, with plans to go to 3.5 by the second quarter of 2020.

While production of the V2500 nacelle tapers off, Collins is eyeing growth for the A220, formerly the Bombardier CSeries. Currently, parts are trucked from Foley to the former Bombardier plant in Mirabel, Canada for final assembly of the integrated power system. Asked if the plan included transporting Foley products over to the neighboring Airbus final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, executives would not elaborate on if or when that could occur.

Michael Bruno/Aviation Week