Mexico, under the leadership of recently elected president Felipe Calderon, is promoting itself as the ideal place for aerospace companies. Bombardier and Honeywell have already seen the potential and established a presence in the Mexican market, but the Canadian manufacturer believes the country still has some way to go before its fledgling aerospace industry can be considered fully developed.


Speaking at the Aerospace Industry in Mexico event in Frankfurt last month, Mexico's consul general in Frankfurt, Anacelia Pérez Charles, told journalists it is Calderon's objective to "bring Mexico to the world and bring the world to Mexico", and that includes developing the aerospace industry and convincing manufacturers, designers and maintenance, repair and overhaul providers to bring their business.

A total of 124 aerospace companies have a presence in Mexico, the majority of which are based in the northern states of Baja California and Sonora (see map), both of which border the USA. Most of those firms are US-based, says Adolfo García, director of international promotion for Estado de Mexico's ministry of business development. Garcia adds that the main interest of Sonora, which is home to 30 aerospace companies, is manufacturing, with a total of 17 firms focusing primarily on machining for aircraft turbines.

He says there are also plans to establish an aircraft overhaul facility in Sonora's capital Hermosillo, but no details are available yet.

The state of Baja California, home to no fewer than 50 aerospace companies, is particularly proud of Honeywell's decision to invest $44 million in a systemic testing facility that is scheduled to open later this year, says Mario Juarez, undersecretary of economic promotion at the government of Baja California.

Honeywell says it chose to invest in the Mexican state because of its "central location and highly educated and motivated workforce", two areas of strength that the Mexican government is keen to publicise. Baja California boasts a 16,500-strong aerospace workforce, representing about 70% of Mexico's total in this sector.

One of the major recent developments in the Mexican aerospace industry was Bombardier Aerospace's decision to invest $200 million over seven years in a new manufacturing plant in Querétaro, 200km (120 miles) north of Mexico City. Full manufacturing operations at the new facility are scheduled to begin in the second half of this year.

Ricardo Carrasco, director of international promotion at Mexican government development bank Bancomext, says Bombardier plans to begin assembling complete jets at the facility in 2010, although this is dismissed by the manufacturer as speculation.

"An industry of this calibre takes a long time to develop and requires partnerships with governments," says Bombardier, adding that there are "three pillars" essential for the Mexican aerospace industry to achieve full growth: a national education programme that will cover the large range of skills and abilities needed within the industry harmonisation of Mexican aviation regulations with the international community so that Mexico can be recognised by international aerospace agencies and governing bodies and the development of infrastructure that meets the needs of a "demanding industry".

Nevertheless, Bombardier says: "The quality of the local workforce, the positive corporate environment, the dedicated investment programme for aerospace in support of the development of the Querétaro Aerospace Park project have convinced us that our partnerships with the Mexican government will help us achieve our long-term corporate goals."

Bombardier shipped the first Mexican-manufactured Challenger 850 fuselage in January, a "significant step for Bombardier Aerospace as well as for the Mexican aerospace industry", it says.

Mexico is touting itself as a cheaper alternative to the USA for aerospace investment, and Bancomext's Carrasco says: "The US industry is moving south. Overhaul companies are going to increase in Mexico more than in the USA. Mexico is the ninth-biggest supplier of components to the US market and the most important reason for this is lower operating costs," which he estimates are 60% lower than in the USA. "Mexico will be a key sourcing hub for global aerospace firms specialising in engine components, fuselages, landing system components and audio and video systems," he adds.

Mexico's government says it is also establishing aerospace technician training centres to further boost the qualified workforce. More investments are also planned to improve infrastructure, but Mexico's basic message is that it is ready and waiting for an influx of foreign aerospace companies.

Source: Flight International