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Safran Landing Systems soar

Kentucky is second highest state in nation for aviation and aerospace exports

Safran Landing System’s 350,000-square-foot plant in Walton, Kentucky, makes high-tech carbon brakes for aircraft. Photo: Safran Landing Systems
Safran Landing Systems in Walton makes high-tech carbon breaks for aircraft in North and South America.Photo: Tim Webb
Safran Landing Systems in Walton, Kentucky, makes high-tech carbon breaks for aircraft in North and South America. Photo: Tim Webb
Safran Landing Systems, Walton, Kentucky, has nearly 400 employees who make high-tech carbon breaks for aircraft. Photo: Tim Webb

Whether you travel by air or even just order a package for delivery, chances are high that Safran Landing Systems in northern Kentucky built the brakes for the aircraft involved.

Twenty years ago, Safran built the Walton plant—the French company’s first facility in the United States—to manufacture brakes for aircraft in North America, South America and Asia. Today, the Kentucky plant focuses solely on North and South America, building 120,000 stators and rotors each year.

Safran selected Kentucky for its U.S. plant for four reasons, according to Phillipe Garnier, CEO and general manager of the Walton facility.

“It had to be in the Eastern time zone, it had to be close to an international airport, had to have reliable, affordable electricity for our production of carbon, and there had to be both a skilled and semi-skilled workforce,” Garnier says. “Kentucky did a good job selling the state.”

Garnier says the low electric rates from Owen Electric have been key to Safran’s success. “Affordable electricity is crucial because 20% to 30% of our cost is the natural gas and electricity.”

During its 20 years of manufacturing in Kentucky, Safran’s Walton plant has grown exponentially. The plant today builds high-tech carbon brakes for the U.S. Air Force, Boeing, Air Canada, FedEx, UPS, United, Allegiant, Jet Blue and many carriers in South America. 

To keep up with the industry’s growth, nearly 400 people are employed by Safran in Walton today, nearly eight times the workforce than when the plant opened. The Walton plant’s original footprint of 50,000 square feet has expanded to 350,000.

The future looks bright for Safran in Kentucky, a place that Garnier and his wife love. They raised their girls here. He doesn’t miss the traffic jams in Paris, and he loves his five-minute commute to work.

“In Paris, it would take 45 minutes to drive 6 miles during rush hour,” he says. “Here, I can go home and eat lunch with my wife every day.”

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