Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

The UK General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMTA) has urged the UK Government to increase funding for UK general aviation aircraft and engine manufacturers, to improve the industry's international competitiveness.

The association also charges the Civil Aviation Authority with putting UK manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage with its high certification costs.

"In Europe, there is not the culture to support general aviation. Airworthiness costs, particularly from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, have led to a lower level of general aviation activity, as they place a number of companies at an economic disadvantage," says Mark Wilson, head of flight engineering at Britten Norman and author of a new GAMTA report into the state of the UK's general aviation engine industry. GAMTA believes that political pressure should now be put on the CAA to make the certification process simpler and more cost effective.

"We must support our home industry, but we need substantially more investment to make it more competitive and enable it to meet the environmental demands," says the association's chief executive Graham Forbes.

The UK Government, although acknowledging these concerns, will not commit to providing extra funding for the industry at this stage. "We are aware that there are problems, so we shall work with the manufacturers and trade associations and come up with the necessary solutions," it says.

The plea for more research and development cash comes on the back of GAMTA's report, written in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry and the University of Bath and entitled New Generation General Aviation Aero Engines. It examines the availability and market for new aero engines, looking at likely technological developments and their impact on the general aviation industry as a whole.

"The most fundamental point is that, over the next few years, the air cooled, horizontally opposed gasoline engines that are predominantly used in general aviation will be replaced," says the report.

It believes that environmental and economic pressures are the driving force behind the new technology, and if UK general aviation aircraft manufacturers such as Britten Norman and Slingsby Aviation, are to progress, there have to be suitable designs available. "Most airframes could be improved by redesign, but if limited to existing engines, the level of improvement is curtailed," it adds.

According to Wilson, there are about six European engine manufacturers with products at varying stages of development. He believes that if any engine manufacturer wants to break into the general aviation market, it will have to do so before the major US manufacturers bring new products to market.

"Although there are in existence dozens of organisations involved in aero engines, it is remarkable that the certificated [piston] aircraft fleet is overwhelmingly supplied by the two US manufacturers, Textron Lycoming and Teledyne Continental," he says.

Source: Flight International