Thinking of the UK aerospace industry naturally brings to mind names like Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, GKN and Airbus – but one industry major that should not be left off the list is Boeing.
The company's direct links to the UK go back to 1941, when British Overseas Airways Corporation bought three Boeing 314 Clipper flying boats for use as transport aircraft, and Boeing set up a field service unit to support the B-17 bombers that would soon be operating from England. Clippers had been flying to the UK in Pan American livery since 1939.
A more generous reading of the Boeing-UK relationship would stretch back to 1938. That year, the British government bought three Harvard trainers from North American Aviation – a company ultimately owned by Boeing through its acquisition of Rockwell.
Give or take a few months, and Boeing has been a presence in UK aerospace – indeed even a fixture – for three-quarters of a century. As visitors to the Royal Aeronautical Society's premises at Hamilton Place in London cannot help but notice, the auditorium was formally the Bill Boeing lecture theatre.
So, when Boeing UK president Roger Bone underscores the need for focused investment to maintain the UK's 17% share of world aerospace spending, he knows of what he speaks. And, he adds, the government-industry Aerospace Growth Partnership initiative is a positive sign for the long-term success of the UK aerospace industry.
Boeing directly employs 1,500 people in the UK, and its average annual spend of $1 billion supports another 9,200 jobs in the aerospace supply chain, and 55,700 in total, according to a report by Oxford Economics.
And, Bone notes, on a 787 Dreamliner powered by Rolls-Royce engines, UK companies supply a quarter of the aircraft by value.
Other high-profile UK contributions to Boeing products include the winglets for its 737 Max narrowbody, to be supplied by GKN.
Plus, when the 777X flies it will be riding on windtunnel work done in Farnborough by QinetiQ. Boeing is also partnered with seven UK research universities.
Boeing's UK subsidiaries include navigation services provider Jeppesen, supply chain management services provider Aviall and operations and analysis software houses CDG and Miro Technologies.
Through Aviation Training International – its 50:50 joint venture with AgustaWestland – Boeing also provides the UK Defence Ministry with attack helicopter aircrew, groundcrew and maintenance training.
Source: Flight International