Founded in 1918, Saft has been an aviation market player since 1932 through two main business activities. Its batteries are used both to start engines or the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), and to provide emergency power for critical functions. Every aircraft (airplanes and helicopters) operate with 1 to 4 batteries. Today, 2/3 of the world’s aircraft fly with Saft batteries. A true testimony to its know-how.
Saft and aviation: a whole battery of skills
The first Saft battery was used on Latécoère’s Aéropostale mail service aircraft in 1932. Over time, the company’s expertise was extended to commercial and business aviation, civil helicopters, military aircraft and UAVs. The Total Group acquired Saft in 2016 and made it part of its Gas, Renewables and Power (GRP) division.
Saft wields expertise in two technologies:
- nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, a proven technology used in approximately 97% of commercial aviation;
- lithium-ion batteries, which are lighter and could become the future technology of choice for aviation.
These are 28-volt rechargeable batteries, and are a key safety feature for aircraft. “Batteries have been recognized by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) as a critical in-flight element since a Boeing 747 was able to land safely, despite the loss of its main generators, on its back-up batteries alone,” explains Loïc Poly, Commercial Director – International Aviation at Saft. Batteries also played a crucial role in 2009, when US Airway’s Airbus A320 suffered a double engine failure after a bird strike that forced the pilots to land on the Hudson River.
A very broad range of battery models
The company works for two different types of clients. Aircraft manufacturers of course (Airbus, Boeing, Dassault, Gulfstream, etc.). “100% of Airbus and 80% of Boeing aircraft are equipped with Saft batteries” says Jean-Marc Thevenoud, Aviation Marketing Manager at Saft. As well as distributors for the battery replacement market.
Because each battery is specific to an aircraft (Airbus A320, Boeing 737, the emblematic Rafale, etc.), Saft currently manufactures over 400 models. These models are developed in conjunction with the aircraft manufacturers as soon as the need arises, to make sure they are perfectly matched to the aircraft’s electrical system and critical components. They are then tested under the most extreme conditions (repeated engine starts, emergency back-up).
Complementary service offers for aircraft batteries
Once the battery is in service, Saft supports its customers with maintenance and life cycle monitoring services. “There are 29 Saft-approved ‘Repair Shops’ around the globe , which have been audited and approved to make sure they meet our requirements,” says Loïc Poly. Remember that a battery, which comprises 20 cells, undergoes maintenance at regular intervals. If it fails to meet the test criteria, one or more cells or even the whole battery is replaced. The used battery will then be recycled. Our distribution partners (Boeing Global Services, Satair, D+C Airparts), who are present worldwide and carry large stocks, can supply a battery within a few hours. In addition, Saft’s after-sales service division responds to requests and technical questions in less than 48 hours.
A battery manufacturer that’s aware of tomorrow’s challenges
“We invest almost 10% of our turnover in R&D. In addition to the traditional 28 V battery market, we are closely monitoring developments in the sector and the changes they will imply in the future,” says Jean-Marc Thevenoud. Spearheading the parade is lithium-ion technology, developed in response to weight issues, to which Saft’s teams have devoted 15 years of development work. Another strategic development is engine hybridization with more electricity – and therefore more batteries – being used for aircraft propulsion. Another example is the Air Mobility market: futuristic flying taxis could soon become a reality. Saft’s know-how still has a bright future ahead of it.
Saft in a few figures
- 4,500 employees
- 3,000 customers
- Present in 19 countries
- 14 production facilities