It boasts world-leading companies, but Canada's aerospace industry - one of the world's biggest - is in danger of lagging in an increasingly globally competitive market. Blessed with a long heritage of aerospace manufacturing, top technical schools, its own OEMs and privileged access to the largest military marketplace, Canada's industry has had every chance to thrive.
However, proximity to the end-customer has bred complacency. As airframers, including Canada's Bombardier, have switched from local build-to-print contractors to scouring the planet for risk-sharing, system integrators with their own supply chains, some of the country's smaller firms have been slow to react.
US defence cuts have also impacted Canadian industry, which has competed on near-equal terms with firms south of the border for access to programmes.
The nation must act on its shortcomings: tier ones investing in design engineering capabilities and marketing themselves on the global stage; "mom and pops" consolidating, identifying what they are best at and collaborating to increase their value up the supply chain.
The challenge is considerable. Emerging industries, from Mexico to Poland and South Korea to Brazil, are becoming more competitive every year. But with supply-chain initiatives at federal level as well as in Ontario and Quebec, Canada at least acknowledges it has a problem and is doing something about it.
If airline passengers knew what a lottery the route to an airline pilot's first job was in Europe, there would be more white knuckles gripping armrests at take-off and landing.
The European Cockpit Association has made a study of the inconsistencies in today's pilot supply system. The first observation is that there is no system, but multiple routes. All pilots, of course, have to get a licence, but so do all car drivers, and it is common knowledge that rather than indicate quality, a licence only proves a minimum legal standard on the day of the test.
Becoming a pilot today, the ECA observes, requires a personal investment of more than €100,000 ($130,000), so as the only aspirants that can raise the finance are rich - or have rich parents - the airlines are fishing in an artificially small pool. The other factor related to the cost is that the pressure to economise on training is high for both the pilots and the airline. Add to that the seemingly intuitive belief that today's flying is so highly automated that pilots don't really need the skills any more, and the result is what the ECA calls "one-dimensional and incomplete" training for pilots.
The industry knows this is true, but modern aircraft are so reliable that fatal accidents are rare, so while the airlines can get away with it, nothing will change. As Flight International has observed before, there is much hand-wringing going on, but no action. ■