Saxony's aviation industry continues to build

Elbe-Flugzeugwerke and other suppliers think the giant aircraft's demise is a shame. But they have other orders.
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The new hangar at Elbe-Flugzeugwerke in Dresden will be about 200 meters long - and high enough for the Airbus A 380. The hangar should be ready by the middle of the year, says company spokesman Christopher Profitlich. For the aviation enthusiast, the double-decker A 380 remains "a great aircraft" that will fly for decades to come. Right now, one of them is in Dresden for inspection; it belongs to Air France. Elbe-Flugzeugwerke expects to continue inspecting such giant aircraft for damage and rust in the future and to install new cabins from time to time.

But the floor panels produced in Dresden will no longer be needed for new A 380 aircraft after 2021, when their production ends. According to the company spokesman, however, jobs are "not in the least" at risk as a result. The production share of the A 380 at Elbe-Flugzeugwerke is "very, very" low. The subsidiary companies in Kodersdorf near Görlitz also mainly produce panels for the A 320 and A 321 aircraft. Profitlich finds the end of the A 380 "a pity", but as a supplier he is "relaxed" about it. The new hangar will be completed anyway, he says, and the workforce of now 1,800 employees in Dresden and Kodersdorf is likely to grow.

Steffen Mann from the sales department also signals no changes in location strategy and personnel policy to his approximately 300 colleagues in Dresden at Diehl Aviation Gilching, formerly AOA Apparatebau Gauting. Steffen Mann is similarly enthusiastic about aviation as his colleague from Elbe-Flugzeugwerke and regrets the end of the A 380, but his company had only supplied refrigeration units for the galleys, as well as air humidification and dehumidification as an option, i.e. not in all aircraft.

According to the latest information from the 2017 annual report, the Dresden-based Diehl site has invested in new machines to expand production. The plant also produces aircraft toilets, but not for the A 380, according to the spokesperson. The A 350 medium-haul aircraft, however, is on the Dresden-based company's customer list, as it is at Klipphausen-based Hightex Reinforcing Structures. There, embroidery machines produce lightweight window frames for aircraft.

About 7,000 people in Saxony work for the aerospace industry, writes the industry association - the Saxony/Thuringia Competence Center for Aerospace Technology. The association once had high hopes for the A 380, which 15 years ago reportedly secured at least 500 jobs in the new states. Chairman Wolfgang Göhler is now planning a survey among members on the latest status. In any case, Airbus is an important showcase customer for a growing company in Central Saxony: anyone who opens the Internet pages of Cotesa in Mittweida and Mochau is shown the "component spectrum" for the A 380. Accordingly, Cotesa is represented "in every Airbus", with lightweight fiber composite materials. They are used for stiffening in the tail. For the A 380, Cotesa produces the floor pan of the lavatories and various plastic linings.

The company, which has 750 employees, recently announced plans to grow in the direction of 1,200. On Thursday, all that could be learned was that Airbus' decision had "surprised" Cotesa and would first have to be evaluated internally. In 2010, CEO Jörg Hüsken had said that the company had come too late with the A380 and had "only picked up the crumbs". At that time, he made five to ten percent of sales with the A 380.

An important customer is Airbus for the Upper Lusatian aviation textiles Olutex in Seifhennersdorf, which cuts insulation mats for the walls - according to earlier information also for A 380. An inquiry to the parent company Hutchinson in Paris remained unanswered by the editorial deadline.

By Georg Moeritz

Photo: Jörn Haufe

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