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Alliant Techsystems Inc. unveiled its $100 million manufacturing plant for aircraft components in Clearfield Monday, projecting that the 615,000-square-foot facility will increase its capacity to produce composite-fiber parts tenfold.
Production at the center, which will serve as the headquarters for ATK Aerospace Structures, is expected to create 800 high-paying jobs over the next 20 years and generate almost $1 billion in wages along the way.
"We've received over $1 billion in orders over the past few years, and this new commercial composite facility will allow us to go well beyond that," said Joy de Lisser, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Structures.
The new facility is producing one "ship set" a month for the new Airbus A-350 passenger jet that is under development. A ship set consists of 700 different parts, including the rounded frames for the 22-foot diameter fuselage and the stringers, which provide the structure with horizontal support.
De Lisser said ATK's work for Airbus represents the anchor contract for the new plant. "By 2017 we will be producing as many as 12 to 13 ship sets a month."
The new plant employs 120 workers, but to address increased production ATK anticipates adding 100 employees annually over the next several years.
Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas, said ATK's new facility is representative of the important partnership the two companies have forged.
Airbus' A-350 commercial jet is already a huge success, with firm orders in hand for 567 of the 250-passenger aircraft, Eccleston said, adding that the plane is expected to go into service by the end of 2013.
"As we grow, ATK's business will grow," he said.
ATK's plant is adjacent to an existing company operation, which in addition to doing some commercial work uses computer-driven robotic machines to weave composite fibers into wing skins and other components for U.S. stealth fighter jets.
De Lisser said that commercial work is being moved to the new plant. "We should have most of our [existing commercial] parts production here by October and all of it by March."
According to ATK, the use of carbon fiber composite parts on commercial aircraft has skyrocketed over the past three decades.
In 1980, less than 5 percent of the parts on the MD-80 were made of composite materials. The new Airbus A-350 will be built with more than 65 percent composite parts.
The launch of ATK's new plant, which in addition to Airbus 350 components will produce aircraft engine parts for General Electric and Rolls Royce, represents a bright spot in what lately has been a bleak employment picture at the aerospace company.
ATK's aerospace systems group in Utah, perhaps best known for producing the solid-fuel rocket motors used on the space shuttle, has gone through a series of layoffs in the past two years as a result of the nation's space shuttle program coming to an end.