Review of 2012 - Highlights

Boeing’s 747-8I is in service, and new leaders are steering the industry. We recall 2012’s highlights, lowlights, near misses and power plays, and bid some fond farewells.

 © Boeing



More than four decades after Pan Am debuted the Boeing 747-100, a stretched variant of the world’s original Jumbo is finally in service. The 747-8 was originally slated for service entry in 2009 but a series of programme delays, caused by development issues and a knock-on from interruptions suffered by the 787 programme, meant the first stretched aircraft did not leave the ground until 2010. The new jet finally entered service – in freighter form – with Cargolux in October 2011. The 747-8 Intercontinental passenger variant followed in June this year, debuting with Lufthansa.

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UTC's Big Deal

 © Rex Features



In a bold, $16 billion manoeuvre, United Technologies completed the acquisition of Goodrich in April, merging the aerospace systems and landing-gear specialist with Hamilton Sundstrand to form UTC Aerospace Systems. It was the largest acquisition in the aerospace industry since the global financial crisis struck in 2008, a fact that illustrates the challenge UTC accepted by attempting the merger.

Fresh Competition


Another year, another Chinese stealth fighter’s debut flight. The first sortie of the Shenyang J-31 in October came less than two years after the Chengdu J-20 got airborne, symbolising China’s accelerating drive to build a globally competitive aerospace industry. It also highlights a few of the remaining gaps in the independence of China’s fledgling industry. For the engines of the export-minded J-31 programme, China still depends on Russia.

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New Faces

 © Bombardier



Leadership of the global aerospace industry realigned this year. Under varying circumstances, new chief executives were installed at Airbus, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, EADS, Lockheed Martin, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Sikorsky and Bombardier Aerospace (now led by Mike Arcamone, above). Although not directly related, the turnover reflects a shift in demand. Commercial aviation around the world is on the rise, while the US and European defence markets enter a period of prolonged stagnation or decline.

For more coverage, go here.


 © Airbus



Airbus disrupted the traditional narrative of its transatlantic tit-for-tat with Boeing in July, when it revealed plans to open an A320 final assembly line (FAL) in Mobile, Alabama in 2016. But beyond planting a European flag in the Deep South, the move also signalled a tilt in the US aerospace centre of gravity, towards the Southeast. In October, Boeing started making 787 deliveries from a growing factory complex in North Charleston, South Carolina. Toulouse, Hamburg and Seattle will remain bastions of commercial aircraft production, but the US Southeast is on the rise.

For more coverage, go here.

Flight International 14 February 2012

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