The Safran Landing Systems plant in Bidos marks 80 years of operations
This year, Safran Landing Systems celebrates 80 years of its site in Bidos (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). Created in the late 1930s to support the French war effort, it now works on some of the biggest aerospace programs, and has won recognition as a shop window for the “factory of the future” initiative. A look back over an industrial success story.
It was in 1938 that Messier, the landing gear specialist, started building the Bidos plant. At the time, France was preparing to go to war. Due to its urban location, the firm’s historic site in Montrouge could not grow to fulfil the orders being placed by the Air Ministry. In addition, the authorities were encouraging industry to pull its activities back outside the range of German aircraft.
The village of Bidos, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, was selected. It had two considerable advantages. Firstly, its proximity to the railroad, essential for supplying the site with machinery and raw materials. Secondly, its distance from the German border. After a few months’ work the plant opened in October 1938. At that time it employed 200 people, producing spare parts for subsequent assembly in Montrouge.
Business tailed off following the 1940 armistice, but picked up again at the end of the war. Serial production was introduced: landing gear for the Fouga Magister in 1954, Mirage III in 1959, Concorde in 1964, and Airbus A300 in 1974. 1987 marked the start of the A320 project, a real success story and the site’s most definitive project. Following on from that came the biggest civil and military aerospace programs of our times: the A330/A340, Rafale, Tiger, A380, Boeing 787, A400M and more.
The Bidos site now specializes in machining large size parts, and assembling shock absorbers and entire landing gear systems. It currently runs 18 serial production programs side by side, with 4 in development. Building on past successes, it continues to invest in the future. One significant development is the creation of a unit dedicated to titanium parts. Another is the creation of a logistics platform. A number of Safran’s Factory of the future projects are also running here: closed door machining*, autonomous operation, predictive maintenance, virtual reality etc. The Bidos 80th birthday celebrations mark just one more step along the road to even greater prospects.
The Villa du Pays d’Art & d’Histoire in Oloron-Sainte-Marie is housing a temporary exhibition through June 30, looking back over the site’s industrial achievements. A series of conferences on June 22 and 29 will present the site in greater detail, including its organization, products, factory of the future initiatives and how its work is changing. On September 20, a République des Pyrénées special edition will be devoted to a double birthday celebration for the Bidos site and Safran Helicopter Engines, which is also 80 years old this year.
* Production line made up of autonomous machines, capable of continuously linking one phase of machining to the next with minimum human intervention.