Beginning in the '70s, a revolution in aircraft braking technology was underway. Originating in the military and continuing with commercial airlines,
steel brakes have been phased out in favor of the improved carbon-based
braking systems used today.
French company Messier-Bugatti, SAFRAN Group, has been playing a key role in this development on the commercial side. To keep pace with the growing demand for its state of the art wheels and carbon-carbon heatsink braking systems, the company has since set up bases of production and support throughout the world.
"Ten years ago [MB USA] was not a supplier to Boeing or the United States' military," says Pat Haywood, CEO and General Manager for MB USA's production facility. "So the decision was made to build a site in the States."
Originally scheduled to set up shop along the Southeastern coast, Messier-Bugatti instead chose the Northern Kentucky city of Walton to house its MB USA customer service center for
the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
Ultimately, Haywood explains, it was Walton, Kentucky's proximity to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), its nationally centralized location, nearby colleges and universities suited for employee training programs and the region's strong technical workforce that won the company over.
In total, MB USA equips over 3,500 commercial aircraft with wheels and
carbon brakes for nearly 250 airline companies and 20 air forces
throughout the world. As a braking, landing, steering and monitoring
systems integrator, this number increases to over 9,000 worldwide.
MB USA partners with industry heavy hitters, namely Airbus, as well as serving as an OEM supplier for aeronautical giants such as Boeing,
Bombardier, ATR and Dassault.
While MB USA is feeling some crunch from the current economic crisis, Haywood explains that it could be worse.
"When there's an economic crisis, a lot of airlines will start parking their aircraft," Haywood says. However, "we're a lot better off than other sectors."
In 2008 MB USA set a record for wheel and carbon brake orders, selling
4,500 brakes and 7,500 wheels for a total of 750 aircraft. These
figures reflect a 40% increase over sales in 2007, a company record,
and a feather in the cap for the Northern Kentucky facility, which contributed
1,000 brakes and 1,000 wheels to this total.
The company's resilience is reflected by the happiness of its employees. Recently MB USA was included in the 55 Best Places to Work in Kentucky, a program organized by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Among MB USA's 100 employees, "almost everybody is from this area originally," Haywood says. Alongside providing superb health benefits, "we invest a lot of time and effort in formal education and training for our employees."
Further deepening ties to the community; Haywood assures that MB USA is "also a very good neighbor for environmental compliance."
"We're a local leader in lean activities," he adds. This involves "trying to eliminate anything that does not add value to the product."
Ultimately, MB USA's international ties further bolster and assure its sturdy local position.
"With the exchange rate the way it is, having a foreign company come here…definitely helps out the economy locally," Haywood says.
This is MB USA's gift to the region: drawing on Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati's strong local base to connect with partners across the globe.