A washington manufacturing plant once part of Boeing is set to supply parts for Airbus' giant new jet — and will outsource some of the work to India. Days before the fanfare...

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A Washington manufacturing plant once part of Boeing is set to supply parts for Airbus’ giant new jet — and will outsource some of the work to India.

Days before the fanfare expected Tuesday in Toulouse, France, when Airbus ceremonially unveils its superjumbo A380, Triumph Composite Systems of Spokane announced that it has won a significant A380 contract.

Triumph will design and manufacture the floor panels for the three-deck freighter version of the huge jet, the A380F, a contract it estimates would be worth more than $35 million, based on an Airbus projection of building 94 freighter aircraft.

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The contract includes conceptual and detailed design, testing and manufacture of the floor panels, as well as in-service support.

“We’re growing a business that’s going to help the local economy,” said Mary Lou Thomas, president of Triumph Composite Systems. “We’re pursuing further work with both Boeing and Airbus.”

The Spokane plant, now owned by Triumph Group of Wayne, Pa., employs 340 people and specializes in airplane flooring and air ducts made from composite materials.

However, some of the A380F engineering design work is being subcontracted to Infosys of Bangalore, India.

“We are very excited about this order. It’s the first really large order from a non-Boeing customer,” said Jennifer MacKay, an engineer at Triumph and president of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the union that represents Triumph engineers and technicians. “But to outsource that design work to India is a great disappointment.”

Thomas said that part of the reason for the subcontracting was to fulfill agreements on behalf of Airbus to send work to India in exchange for previous Airbus jet sales to that country.

She said that Infosys does design engineering for both Airbus and Boeing and that she had first worked with the company on an earlier contracting job after an informal referral from a Boeing contact.

On its Web site, Infosys, originally a software consulting firm that has diversified into engineering contracting for a range of industries, promotes its capability to provide “strategic off-shore outsourcing.”

The amount of the A380F design work to be outsourced has not been decided, Thomas said.

The Airbus contract validates an argument put forward by Boeing when it sold the Spokane plant to Triumph in January 2003. Company officials said that the facility’s future would be brighter as an external supplier, since it would be able to compete for other business as well as keeping its Boeing work.

As part of the sale, Boeing granted Triumph an eight-year single-source agreement to continue to supply floor panels, air ducts and flight-deck components for its commercial airplanes. Triumph supplies about 65 percent of Boeing’s air ducting and all of its floor panels.

Airbus claims that 50 percent of A380 procurement is from American companies.

The European jet-maker is keen to promote its American supplier contracts to help parent company EADS penetrate the U.S. defense sector. EADS (European Aeronautic Defence & Space) is making a major public-relations push in the U.S. to take the Air Force tanker contract away from Boeing.

The A380F is set to come into service in 2008, two years after the 555-seat double-decker passenger version of the new jet. The freighter, which will carry 150 tons of cargo more than 5,600 nautical miles, has been ordered by both FedEx and UPS.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com