Against a background of rising transatlantic trade tensions, members of the US Aerospace Commission will meet with their European counterparts at Farnborough to exchange views on government support for their respective industries.

The dialogue is likely to be frank, as they say in diplomatic circles.

The European Union made its position clear on the eve of the show with the release of its Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21st century (STAR 21): Europe wants more access to the US domestic defence market.

The Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry will not release a final report until November, but the thrust is already clear: it wants more government funding for civil aviation. Chairman and former congressman Bob Walker is attending Farnborough with eight of the 12-member commission, including former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and John Douglass, who is also here wearing his other hat as president of the US Aerospace Industries Association, the trade body that is working with its European counterpart AECMA to find ways to ease trade tensions.

Whereas the STAR 21 report urges the European Union to push the USA to open its domestic market, Walker says the commission has yet to address the USA's trade relationship with Europe directly, focusing instead on what actions the US Government and its agencies could take to maintain a robust aircraft industry.

But Europe certainly has the commission's attention, particularly the EU's Vision 2020 report published in January last year, which set out an agenda for public and private funding of aeronautics research and development intended to give Europe dominance in civil air transport. Given the inroads Airbus has made into the North American airline market, this stated intent has rung alarm bells across the US industry.


"The commission is looking at aerospace broadly, not just civil – which was the focus of 2020 – but Europe's clear statement of intent to wrest leadership from the US is a concern," says Walker.

The commission's final report is likely to focus its recommendations on the civil side of the industry, if only because the military side benefits from the already large and rapidly growing US defence budget. "In military aerospace, the US has a quarter-century lead," says Walker.

The commission has made its thinking clear in three interim reports, which have recommended government action to improve the business environment for aerospace: streamline the defence export licencing process; transform the air transport system; revitalise the space launch infrastructure; sustain the aerospace industrial base; and attract and maintain a skilled workforce.

Walker expects the final report to lay out its recommendations within the framework of a series of visions. "The final report will look broadly into the future, with recommendations for appropriate policy actions the government can roll out for the future," he says.

A major thrust of the report is expected to be the total modernisation of the US air traffic management system to avoid gridlock, which would cripple the US civil aviation industry. "There have to be substantial reforms now and for the future," says Walker.

With respect to civil aviation, the commission's report could end up mirroring some aspects of the EU's Vision 2020 and STAR 21 reports, but with one major difference which reflects the divergence between Airbus and Boeing on the future of air transport. "In Vision 2020, the EU put its bet on hub-to-hub. The commission will put its bet on point-to-point," says Walker.

Source: Flight Daily News