UPDATE 2-Zodiac Aero factory blast shows risks in supply chain

Thu Jul 16, 2015 5:16pm EDT
 
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(Adds Embraer comment, details on Zodiac challenges)

By Alwyn Scott and Cyril Altmeyer

July 16 (Reuters) - Zodiac Aerospace said it is considering moving machinery from a U.S. factory crippled by a powerful explosion on Tuesday so it can continue making aircraft interior composite panels needed by the booming aviation industry.

Zodiac has "buffer inventory" it can use in the short term, a spokesman told Reuters on Thursday. But in the longer term, "it is not known yet whether Zodiac will be able to produce panels internally or would have to buy them externally," the spokesman said.

The blast at the plant in Newport, Washington, on Tuesday night fractured concrete pillars, blew out windows and caused a floor to collapse, making the building unsafe to occupy, authorities said.

The damaged plant makes "prepreg," a thin resin-soaked sheeting that is glued to either side of a thicker honeycomb core to make rigid wall panels for lavatories, galleys and other aircraft interior sections.

Boeing Co said it was working closely with Zodiac to reduce any impact from the shutdown on its aircraft assembly operations. Airbus did not respond to requests for comment.

Still, concerns about the closed Zodiac facility, one of more than 30 it has in the United States, reveal how vulnerable the aircraft industry is to disruptions in the overall supply chain.

Boeing and Airbus are churning out more than 100 jetliners a month, a record pace aimed at reducing their eight-year order backlog.   Continued...