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Who Owns the Skies?

Written by Ed Nurse on . Posted in News, Supply Chain

The annual Paris Air Show is often viewed as the market barometer of the aerospace industry and this week’s show is no different.

Manufacturers of civil and military aircraft are out in force exhibiting new aircraft and new technologies. There is however one A-lister which is conspicuous by its absence and which has stayed at home, 700km south of Paris in Toulouse.

Airbus’ new twin aisle long haul aircraft the A350 took to the skies over Toulouse for its first test flight on 14th June. A350’s touching down following the 4-hour flight was greeted by furious flag waving in Toulouse as the European manufacturer celebrated the realisation of €11bn of investment costs.  

A350’s maiden flight was just as well received at Filton in England where wings are assembled and at every other location in the UK where subassemblies and parts associated with A350 are manufactured. Derby will have celebrated too, where Rolls Royce builds its Trent Engines, heralded as its cleanest and most fuel efficient engine to date.

Despite the Airbus A350's no-show in Paris, early signs look very positive. Airbus announced orders worth $18.3bn on the first day of Paris alone, tripling Boeing’s reported orders of $6.1bn. The largest order placed with Airbus was for 20 A380s but Airbus will certainly hope that the popularity of its new generation of aircraft will reflect on A350 sales and help it steal a march on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner which was temporarily grounded earlier this year due to battery problems.

Paris isn’t just about Airbus and Boeing however and some market analysts are paying special attention this year to the rising profile of manufacturers from China, Russia and Canada. The rumours are that given the growth of air travel in the Asia-Pacific market (the expectation is that this region will account for 50% of air travel within the next 20 years) we are starting to see the potential for the iron grip of Boeing and Airbus might soon be challenged for the first time.  

In truth, while the rise of alternative manufacturers appears to merit industry column inches with tales about what might happen, the more likely reality is that A350XWB and 787 Dreamliner will form the bedrock of long haul civil aviation in this leaner and greener age of air travel. The recent Airbus and Boeing programmes are likely to be around for the next 25 years which is good news for the UK’s supply chain members, representing much welcomed stability in the sector in the short to medium term.

British manufacturing has a lot riding on the success of the Airbus A350 and the Government’s support for Britain’s aerospace was raised and restated by the Prime Minister in last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Skilled manufacturing continues to play a vital role in the UK’s economy despite sometimes appearing unfashionable and often overlooked by those outside the industry.

Europe and Airbus dominating the skies is good news for the UK economy and the continued investment in the UK looks set to continue. The EU’s CleanSky funding programme has committed millions of Euros to research into new technologies and two days before A350’s maiden test voyage Airbus showed off its new model of future aircraft at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh: http://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/newsairbus-unveils-concept-plane-novel-aircraft-design

Perhaps the Airbus concept is an insight into Paris in 2030? As for an insight into the concepts born in 2030, that’s anyone’s guess.

Ed Nurse is an aviation expert and regularly writes on aerospace supply chain issues and the aerospace sector. Ed has been involved in all current programmes with a range of OEM and Tier 1 manufacturers and is a Director of BHW Solicitors in Leicester.

You can contact Ed on 0116 281 6230 or by email at Ed@bhwsolicitors.com.


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