Having survived the plummet in sales after 9/11, the aerospace industry worldwide is flying high.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) indicates total sales for the US aerospace industry, the world’s largest, reached $184.4bn in 2006, a record level for three years in a row. AIA projects aerospace industry sales will grow to top $195bn in 2007 as the Department of Defense’s purchases and the space sector increase slightly, and commercial aircraft, engines and parts deliveries jump another 15%.

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“We’re in a period of the highest aerospace sales in history, fuelled by the civil aviation boom,” states AIA president and CEO John Douglass.

Today, the European aerospace industry grosses roughly $130bn in annual revenue.

Defence contracting

Colorado, which boasts the second largest aerospace economy behind California, has been the recipient of several recent projects. Feeding the industry is a diverse mix of Department of Defense military installations, which foster important synergies between private aerospace companies and government entities such as the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Nasa). The University of Colorado at Boulder feeds research to the industry and much needed new talent. CU-Boulder research has been strongly represented on Nasa shuttles and space missions.

Expanding Colorado’s base is Nasa’s selection of Lockheed Martin in August 2006 to design and build Orion, its next-generation crew exploration vehicle. The contract could generate up to $8.2bn by 2019 and generate about 600 high-paid engineering jobs for Colorado.

“It establishes Denver [Colorado] as a human spaceflight centre,” says John Stevens, business development director for Lockheed’s Orion programme. With aerospace jobs in Colorado paying about $93,000, Orion’s impact on Denver’s economy would exceed $2bn in a decade.

In December 2006, Boeing and Lockheed Martin received government approval to form the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture that will consolidate Lockheed Martin Atlas and Boeing Delta’s expendable launch vehicle programmes. These have carried 850-plus combined payloads to space, including weather, telecommunications and national security satellites.

“Separately, there was not enough business to keep the two companies going,” says Julie Andrews, ULA spokesperson.

The alliance will move nearly 400 of the 900 managers, engineers and support staff at Boeing’s Delta operations in Huntington Beach, California, to Denver where ULA will be headquartered.

“Colorado has been extremely pro-active in relocating the employees. Consequently, we had a very high acceptance rate,” Ms Andrews says.

Major assembly and integration operations will be located at Boeing’s large, yet underutilised manufacturing assembly facility in Decatur, Alabama. Launch facilities will be maintained at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“People will work on both rockets at each launch site,” says Ms Andrews.

Industry expansion

North Carolina is known as the birthplace of aviation. Now, 100 years after the Wright Brothers’ successful first flight, the aerospace industry is on the move again. Among recent announcements, Honda Aircraft plans to build a $100m jet plant and headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, for very light jets (VLJ). And Smiths Aerospace is undergoing a $16m expansion to its turbine engine components facility in Asheville.

“We think our assets give us a competitive advantage, which is evidenced by aviation investment throughout our state,” North Carolina secretary of commerce Jim Fain says.

Government officials are especially keen to expand the aerospace sector. The industry pays above average wages and relies on technical skills that make the jobs sustainable. Aerospace is also more likely to stay onshore than go offshore due to its proprietary technology.

To promote the sector, the state emphasises education. “One of our assets is we are an industrial state with a strong manufacturing workforce that has experienced some displacement in our legacy industries such as textiles,” Mr Fain says. “But there are good cross-over skills. That’s why we are investing in education and workforce training.”

Lucrative contracts

Alabama is also fostering a strong aerospace sector as represented by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company’s (EADS) selection of Brookley Industrial Complex in Mobile over Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina for an engineering and manufacturing plant if awarded a US Air Force contract to build refuelling tankers. The contract is in competition with Everett, Washington-based Boeing.

Attracting EADS to the site was its strategically-located complex on the Gulf of Mexico with existing runways, a deepwater port and a skilled aerospace workforce.

Northrop Grumman has partnered with EADS North America in seeking the bid. If successful, Northrop Grumman will bring 1000 new jobs to Mobile as well as locate its assembly plant there.

To strengthen the bid, Airbus recently established a 150-person engineering centre in Mobile. The centre performs interior design and definition work for the twin-engine A350 XWB. In Mobile, engineers are teamed with the Airbus cabin, cargo and customisation centre in Germany.

Airbus also maintains a centre in Wichita, Kansas, that teams with its wing centre of excellence in Wales.

UAV development

The uninhabited autonomous vehicles (UAV) industry is receiving attention in the UK where Rolls-Royce and the University of Manchester unveiled in May a £1m ($1.97m) experimental facility that will boost the development of high-tech electrical systems. The facility will complement the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) in Manchester.

“This latest development will allow further exchange of skills between the university and Rolls-Royce and will provide fresh opportunities for training and development,” comments Professor John Perkins, vice-president and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Manchester.

The Manchester UTC also collaborates with UTCs focused on electrical engineering at the Universities of Sheffield and Strathclyde.

The civil and commercial UAV market in Europe is estimated to be worth roughly €1.2bn over the next 10 years.

Demand for corporate jets, including those in the emerging VLJ category, is skyrocketing. Rolls-Royce predicts 23,000 such jets, valued at $284bn, will be needed by 2023.

Indicative of this trend, last year NetJets Europe signed an order with Dassault Aviation for 24 Falcon 7X jets valued at $1.1bn — the largest business jet order in European history. The aircraft will be delivered starting in 2008and continue until 2014.

Components installed on the Falcon 7X are manufactured around the world and come together in Bordeaux-Mérignac, France, for final assembly. Bordeaux is known for its flight tests and test centres.

The planes are then flown to Little Rock, Arkansas, for interior installations and exterior paint at Dassault Falcon’s completion centre. That complex recently underwent a $13m expansion, making it Dassault’s largest facility with nearly 1800 employees and 63,000 square metres of work area.

“The primary reason we chose to build and expand in Little Rock is the skilled labour in the area,” says a Dassault spokesman. “The expansion and work force in Arkansas will enable us to accommodate the assembly of the next generation of business jets.”

Likewise, business jet manufacturer Gulfstream Aerospace is undergoing a $300m, seven-year expansion of its manufacturing and service facilities in Savannah, Georgia, to meet demand requirements. Site plans include one of the company’s five final-phase manufacturing facilities and the largest of Gulfstream’s 10 service centres. (The others are located in Long Beach, California; Dallas, Texas; Appleton, Wisconsin; Brunswick, Georgia; and London, UK.) Consequently, 1100 new jobs should be added, a 25% increase from its current 4300 employees.

The 2006 Airbus Global Market Forecast projects that between 2006 and 2025 some 22,700 new passenger and freight aircraft valued at $2600bn will be required by aircraft operators.

Airbus is currently constructing its A320 Family Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Tianjin, China, to ramp up production. The facility is identical to its state-of-the-art assembly line in Hamburg, Germany. Officials say the new plant gives Airbus greater access to the Chinese market.

Until now, that market has been dominated by foreign aircraft manufactures Boeing and Airbus. But now China wants to become the world’s second largest civil aviation market by 2030. It plans to start manufacturing large commercial aircraft by 2020.

The announcement comes after China’s success in developing its first commercial jet airliner, the mid-size ARJ-21 regional jet. Mass production of the aircraft is scheduled for March 2008 with aircraft components being manufactured in Xi’an, Shenyang and Chengdu with final assembly in Shanghai.

Already 2230 new planes are on order between now and 2025. Officials at China Aviation Industry Corporation contend the aircraft gives China a late, but powerful presence in its own commercial aviation market.

 

EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY TAKES ON THE WORLD

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide is expanding its global enterprise to include a new partnership with the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), a major university with over 50,000 students in Barcelona, Spain. Faculty from both universities will jointly develop and deliver a master’s degree in aeronautical management designed to address the expanding aviation and aerospace industry in Spain and the European Union.

“Barcelona and its province of Catalonia have aggressive expansion plans for these industries,” states Dr John R Watret, vice-chancellor for academic affairs for Embry-Riddle Worldwide.

These plans are based on the restructuring of the European aviation sector to meet world standards, which has resulted in on-going substantial changes and improvements at Spain’s major airports.

“Barcelona International Airport, itself, is undergoing a huge expansion in the next four to five years,” he says.

Consequently, there is increased need for skilled workers in aviation management. Home to a comprehensive aviation marketplace with four airports, Barcelona is one of the most economically robust regions of Spain.

The joint curriculum that will lead to a Masters in Business Administration in Aviation, will be modelled on the existing Master of Aeronautical Science degree at Embry-Riddle.

“We are working on that curriculum because Barcelona has a need for that skills set for running the operations of its airports,” Dr Watret says.

Each university will teach half of the prescribed curriculum with a single diploma carrying both university seals being awarded to graduates of the programme.

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is involved because we are recognised as a world leader in aviation education,” Dr Watret explains.

Not only is Embry-Riddle the world’s largest, fully accredited university specialising in aviation and aerospace, it also offers 30-plus degree programmes in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering to more than 32,000 students annually in undergraduate and graduate programmes at residential campuses in Prescott, Arizona, Daytona Beach, Florida, and worldwide at more than 130 centres in the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. It also offers an online learning programme.

Worldwide reach

Embry-Riddle Worldwide educates more than 27,000 students through classroom, online or hybrid undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programmes.

After the new degree launches in September, 2008, between UAB and Embry-Riddle, the universities intend to develop an Institute of Aviation Management to act as a “think tank” to advise and direct the growing aviation and aerospace industry in Spain and southern Europe.

Embry-Riddle is also committed to investing in global development and expansion. Consequently, the Worldwide campus is also working on opportunities in China, Brazil, Germany, Canada, the Middle East, India and in other Asian countries.

“We are in Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi,” Dr Watret states. “Huge expansions are ongoing within the Middle East with Doha and Dubai both building new international airports. Both are looking to be the hub for the growth in aviation. This requires aviation management and operations skills.”

Embry-Riddle can provide study in air traffic management, metrology and air transport management and aeronautics. It has also just announced it is opening a civilian centre in Berlin.

“We have a strong presence through the tri-services agreement of the military bases of Europe,” Dr Watret explains. “Our Master of Aeronautical Science degree has been recognised by the education board of Germany.”

The centre will work in conjunction with aviation companies in Berlin and the German Air Force to provide support for their pilots to get a degree in aviation.

The university also sees expanding opportunities in China given the latter’s recent announcement of plans to manufacture regional jets.

“We are engaged in preliminary talks with the Civil Aviation University of China (CAUC) regarding its interest in aviation management.”