Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

The European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA), making its debut as official provider of Europe's aerospace statistics, has added its weight to growing efforts to accelerate restructuring in the region.

AECMA was relaunched and retitled in 1996 in an attempt to give European industry a stronger and more united voice to match that of the organisation's US counterpart, the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA). Like the US organisation, AECMA has also now been handed the task of presenting the industry's annual statistics, which have previously been published, with little fanfare, by the European Commission (EC).

The results for 1996, presented in London on 17 September, showed a strong recovery in sales, which climbed by 12% to Ecu 44 billion ($48 billion). That marks the first increase in real terms since the peak of 1990, when sales stood at a record Ecu 55 billion.

The recovery is expected to continue strongly this year, helped by a 50% growth in Airbus output and supported by some encouraging corporate first-half results around Europe.

Employment was down by a further 40,000 jobs to 343,400, continuing a decade-long decline. Although the fall has slowed, AECMA cautions that the trend will continue, with job numbers "at best remaining relatively stable".

News of a recovery was accompanied, however, by warnings about the extent to which Europe continues to lag the USA in terms of scale and state support.

AECMA points out that Europe ran an overall trade surplus of Ecu 5 billion in 1996, but that this came despite a ECU 9 billion deficit with the USA. It estimates that the European Union (EU) has a 15% share of US markets compared with 40% penetration by the USA in Europe.

Levels of state support also remain at the heart of continuing transatlantic tension between the two aerospace regions. In particular, AECMA warns that consistent US investment in research and technology will give it a lead over Europe for the next ten to 20 years.

"The 15 EU member states are far from having a joint aerospace industry policy and they are by no means matching the determination of the US Government to support their aerospace industry," the Association says.

AECMA itself is launching a new restructuring policy paper, following a similar move by the EC, which recently published a forthright study of the industry (Flight International, 24-30 September).

The 1996 figures show that of the Ecu 8 billion expenditure on research and development, almost half was company-financed. EU governments have also become diminishing customers for the industry, accounting for less than 30% of sales in 1996, compared with more than half at the start of the 1980s. A large part of the fall reflects the decline in the importance of military markets, which account for only 41% of sales, down from two-thirds at their height (see graphic).

Source: Flight International