Sixteen years after its creation as EADS, and as it goes through yet another revamp to make it stronger and more integrated, Airbus dominates European aerospace – alongside BAE Systems, Dassault and Leonardo, the continent's other three giants still making aircraft in the 21st century.

But never overlook Europe's independent airframers, quietly getting on with innovating, delighting their customers and (occasionally) even making money. Some – like Piaggio and Daher – are owned by larger groups. Others, such as Austria's Diamond, Grob in Germany, Czech-based Evektor, Switzerland's Pilatus and Italy's Tecnam, are privately run. Often with a maverick owner-designer at the helm, these companies produce original recreational, business aviation, special-mission or flight-training platforms with fans the world over.

Few are likely to trouble the Top 100 ranking of aerospace manufacturers any time soon. None will cause Boeing or Lockheed Martin to lose sleep. But they are vital to the fabric of Europe's aerospace sector, and – unlike the engineer responsible for a fuel pump deep within the wing of an Airbus jet – each of the small number of professionals who work for these companies has the job satisfaction of wide involvement with the finished product.

Europe's surviving independent aircraft manufacturers in an age of consolidation: we salute you.

Source: Flight International