Heavy demand from military customers and technology demands generated by emissions and noise regulation should drive a period of aviation industry growth despite global recession, according to Aerospace Industries Association chief executive Marion Blakey.

Delivering the annual Lindbergh lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on 28 April, Blakey - an RAeS fellow and former Federal Aviation Administration administrator - pointed to the Great Depression years of the 1930s as a precedent for industry growth despite hard times.

The 30s, she noted, saw the US military recognise the potential for air power and drive a period of industry growth based on technological advances following on from such landmark developments as the self-lubricating and self-cleaning engine that made possible Charles Lindbergh’s epic 1927 transatlantic flight.

And, she added, despite the Depression much of that technology made it to civil aircraft that enabled profitable airline operations. There was also, she noted, an element of “escapism” driving civil aviation, most notably in the development of transpacific flying boat services.

A similar dynamic drove the development of the UK aviation industry, said Blakey.

She admitted that the situation today is not strictly similar, in that both military and civil aviation are well-established. However, she said, military demands for new-technology aircraft are significant to counter persistent threat levels. Unmanned systems are a new and developing technology with much growth demand, she said, and there is also a large “pent-up demand” to replace aircraft “worn out” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critically, she said, those aircraft will be replaced with new generation equipment.

Moreover, said Blakey, aerospace spending fits well with US government plans for economic stimulus spending. “These are not hole-digging jobs,” she said, but rather are high-quality, middle class jobs that support communities.

On the civil side, new regulations are driving technological innovation and aircraft like the Boeign 787 and Airbus A380 are “game changers”, she said, noting that airline demand for new equipment will return, and “cargo will be big”.


Source: Flight International