Aerospace industry financial data from 2014 underscores the obvious: this industry is riding a decade-long growth wave. Our ranking by 2014 revenue, compiled by the aerospace experts at PwC, shows that, barring a wobble during the darkest days of the financial crisis, makers of aircraft and their suppliers mostly sloughed off the downturn and then surged during an otherwise weak recovery. Indeed, aerospace can be said to be enjoying an economic super-cycle.
Here’s a sneak peak at the top 10 – the cast remains the same, but a few have shuffled places in the latest league table; for the full listing and explanatory notes see the 15 September issue of Flight International.
1. Boeing $90.8 billion sales
As Ray Conner, boss of Boeing’s dominant Commercial Airplanes unit, put it back in January: “In the face of fierce competition, we had a strong year.” We’ll give you that, Ray – 1,432 firm orders wrapped up 2014 with a record backlog despite a truly stunning 723 deliveries. Meanwhile, the whole company turned in another record revenue performance despite a 12% downturn, to $13.5 billion, at defence, space and security.
Though there’s nothing like working from strength, Boeing does have some significant challenges: the KC-46 they’re being watched by well-known hawk Qatar Airways, which may launch both.
2. Airbus $80.6 billion
Another year in the number-two slot for Europe’s champion is no surprise, though a record 1,456 commercial aircraft orders in 2014 actually topped Boeing. Like its arch-rival, Airbus now has to manage some key programme transitions, in the neo versions of its A320 and A330, while ramping up A350 output. And, it faces headwinds in helicopters, where its longstanding market dominance faces attack by hungry rivals and an offshore market hammered by low oil prices. Boeing’s main advantage is in defence, where being American helps. A lot.
Keep 'em coming
3. Lockheed Martin $45.6 billion
The F-35 programme is stumping along, while buying Sikorsky from number four UTC rounds out a defence-focused firm.
Another day passes
4. UTC $36.2 billion
Selling Sikorsky helicopters to Lockheed Martin will cut $7.5 billion off the top line; fast-growing GE may just overtake.
So long, Sikorsky
5. GE Aviation $24.0 billion
Last year was the first full year since GE acquired Italian engine components maker Avio, in August 2013.
6. Northrop Grumman $24.0 billion
Partnered with Gulfstream and L-3, Northrop is doing battle against Boeing and Lockheed Martin for a lucrative USAF competition to replace its ageing JSTARS radar targeting fleet from 2023 – Northrop is the incumbent on that programme, so there’s pride and some $6.5 billion at stake; the next couple of years will determine the outcome.
7. Raytheon $22.8 billion
International business is solid; RAF likes Paveway and Qatar is spending $2 billion for Patriot air and missile defense capability.
All tooled up, Raytheon style
8. Safran $18.3 billion
Joint ventures are coming good; with GE, the CFM Leap is nearing completion and with Airbus, it’s “go” for Europe’s new Ariane 6 launcher.
More Ariane, please
9. Finmeccanica $17.2 billion
Several years of financial mayhem look to be over and Italy’s champion is back in the black; the focus is now comfortably on aerospace and defence electronics.
AgustaWestland means lift for Finmeccanica
10. Rolls-Royce $14.7 billion
After a very successful 2014, the world’s number-two aero engine maker faces more than a few hurdles: managing a sales slump while Trent 700s transition to the 7000s that will power Airbus A330neos, dealing with investor calls to divest marine and energy divisions and, possibly, raising capital to build the R&D muscle needed to keep up with GE.
Trent boys know the drill