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Business flying high

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By Scotty McDaniel

Business is taking off for Roll Forming Corporation in Shelbyville.

Literally.

RFC, a subsidiary of Austria-based voestalpine, has announced a contract with the Boeing Company to produce formed and laser welded titanium structure components that will be installed on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes.

Bill Johnson, Chiefs Operations Officer, said the project is full of firsts for RFC, the aerospace industry, and Shelbyville.

"We're using cutting edge technology in the aerospace industry that has never been done," Johnson said. "We're laser welding titanium structural components for this aircraft. It will be the first laser welded structural components on a commercial airplane."

A press release from RFC said the Dreamliner will introduce a variety of changes to the way people fly. With a focus on comfort, the airplane will feature quieter interiors, larger windows, and more legroom.

RFC is working on components for the Dreamliner's lighter, stronger structure made out of titanium metal covered with a lightweight composite material. According to The Boeing Company website, this lighter structure will allow the airplane to use 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized airplanes and travel up to 8,200 nautical miles, all while possessing more cargo capacity and traveling at some of the fastest speeds possible for a plane its size.

"This will be the most efficient aircraft in the air," Johnson said. "It's fuel efficient, it's lightweight, it's easy to maintain."

The 45 employees in RFC's Aerospace division, developed in 1997, are undertaking the Boeing project.

"This is the first launch program that Roll Forming has been on," Johnson said. "From day one, every 787 Dreamliner airplane that's sold will have our components on it."

The timeline given on the Boeing Company website has the Dreamliner scheduled to have its first flight towards the end of the second quarter of 2008 with entry into service in early 2009.

Started in 1947 in Louisville, RFC moved to Shelbyville with a 24 employee workforce in 1949 and into the current building in 1963.

Ray Leathers, president and CEO, said RFC currently has 300 employees across Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania. He said RFC has previously worked with NASA and Lockheed Martin, among others.

"We make structural metal components for virtually every industry in the US," Leathers said.

"We're extremely proud to be a part of the Shelbyville community," he said. "We live in the same community where we work to build our business and provide jobs. Shelbyville is a great place."