Martin C. Barry
One of the Montreal region’s leading manufacturers of landing gear for the global aerospace industry got a financial boost from the federal government last week when Marc-Aurèle-Fortin MP Yves Robillard announced a $1.2 million repayable subsidy to Laval-based Mecaer America.
Among the guests on hand for the announcement at the company’s facilities in Laval’s industrial park were City of Laval executive-committee member and councillor for Sainte-Dorothée Ray Khalil (who was representing the mayor), and Consul General in Montreal for Italy Silvia Costantini.
‘Centre for excellence’
“I would say Montreal is becoming a centre of excellence for landing gear,” said Christopher O’Neill, executive vice-president for strategic business with the company, as he was greeting guests arriving for the announcement and a facility tour.
In Laval alone, the list of manufacturers and suppliers of elaborately engineered landing gear sought by major aircraft makers includes Héroux-Devtek and Liebherr Canada. The latter company opened a new facility on the edge of Autoroute 13 in October 2017 to produce landing gear for the Bombardier C Series aircraft.
Landing gear for Airbus
Mecaer America, which first opened its facility in Laval in 2002, manufactures landing gears for helicopters, regional and business transport aircraft and military training aircraft. Its largest landing gears are currently being made for the Airbus A350 in conjunction with Airbus supplier Collins Aerospace.
Through the financial assistance provided by Canada Economic Development for Quebec, the company will be able to invest in new procedures leading to the creation of a centre of excellence for the design, manufacture and qualification of its integrated landing gear systems.
According to a statement from CEDQ, the creation of the centre of excellence and the technological transformation of the Laval plant will generate benefits for Canadian suppliers, from whom Mecaer America makes tens of millions of dollars in purchases each year.
According to O’Neill, Mecaer America, whose corporate parent (Mecaer Aviation Group) is headquartered in Italy, ranks around the middle in a top-10 list of global landing gear makers. While the parent is involved in the design of VIP interiors for helicopters as well as flight controls and landing systems, O’Neill described the Montreal branch as the company’s “international entry” into landing gear.
Creating high-quality jobs
“There are 125 people here gainfully employed in high-quality employment,” he said. “Annually we have $4- to $5-million in R and D investment. So the company is fully committed to this facility in Laval.” O’Neill said that most of the federal subsidy is paying for a state-of-the-art computerized Mazak E-670 machining unit manufactured by Yamazaki Mazak Corp. of Japan.
Since the 1980s, Mazak has become one of the most important global suppliers of sophisticated toolmaking equipment. The E-670 at Mecaer is one of the largest automated machining units deployed in Quebec. A remaining portion of the federal subsidy is being used to set up a hydraulic calibration centre for landing gear tests.
Supporting aerospace sector
“In line with our commitment to foster growth for the Canadian economy, the Government of Canada’s goal is to provide better support for businesses that are making investments to improve their productivity and ensure their growth and that of the Canadian economy,” said Robillard.
“More than ever the government of Canada is determined to support innovation and economic growth,” he continued. “The global demand for production of aircraft is in full growth. The assistance from the government of Canada will allow Mecaer America to answer this need. The support by CEDQ will allow this business to consolidate its position on an international scale, while pursuing its growth by adapting to the demands of its clientele.”
Laval’s key position
Khalil noted that Laval has a key role to play in the aerospace industry in the Montreal region, since the city is geographically well-located between Montreal and the North Shore, and is also just minutes from Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Khalil pointed out that more than 30 businesses that are key players in sectors crucial to aircraft manufacturing “have chosen to set up here in Laval. This is not a coincidence. Laval offers a first rate location for business to the aerospace industry. There is also a healthy and dynamic economic environment here and easy access to a highly qualified workforce.”