Albany International to push growth in aerospace parts division

Albany International Corp. is preparing to ramp up the operations of its aerospace parts division in

Albany International Corp. is preparing to ramp up the operations of its aerospace parts division in New Hampshire despite speculation that a major customer could soon cease making its jets.

Less than three months after Albany International revealed it would take a hit from Eclipse Aviation Corp.’s decision to scale down production of its private jet line, company officials now believe its aerospace parts arm has more than double the growth potential previously disclosed.

In announcing third quarter results Monday, company officials said its Albany Engineered Composites arm could achieve annual sales of $400 million. The forecast far exceeds Albany International’s initial projection of $150 million.

Albany Engineered Composites’ reinforced fabrics are largely used for airplane brakes.

Highlighting Albany International’s hopes for the aerospace market, it is planning to almost double the size and work force of Albany Engineered Composites’ Rochester, N.H., headquarters.

The Rochester Economic Development Office last month announced Albany Engineered Composites has entered an interim lease agreement for a 84,000-square-foot space next to its headquarters. Albany Engineered Composites will conduct manufacturing operations out of that facility while its 129,000-square-foot headquarters undergoes a 100,000-square foot expansion. The project will add 200 jobs to the Rochester operation’s current work force of 175.

“That will allow us to ramp up production and not have to wait until the expansion is completed,” Albany International spokeswoman Susan Siegel said.

Albany Engineered Composites is ramping up production even though Forecast International last week issued a report saying Eclipse Aviation will stop making its Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet by the end of the first quarter of next year. Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse’s move to scale down product of the jet over the summer “meant a complete stoppage of production of parts for the jet,” Albany International President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Morone said.

But Morone’s expectation of the New Mexico jet manufacturer runs opposite to the outlook of Forecast in Newtown, Conn. He said Eclipse appears to be “on track for a 2009 recovery.” That would also mean Albany Engineered Composites’ production of Eclipse parts should return to normal by the third quarter of 2009.

Eclipse’s recovery is especially important to Albany International Airport in Colonie, where the New Mexico company in February opened an $8 million service station for its jets.

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