BAE chief executive calls for funding for advanced aerospace technology projects

A leading UK aerospace industrialist is warning that an unproductive workforce could cost the country dearly, with technological advantage and better productivity pulling investment and contracts to the USA instead. "The work ethic in the US is incredible compared to Europe," says BAE Systems chief executive Mike Turner, adding that "the difference is getting worse."

In an interview with Flight International, he says European workers typically have five or six weeks' holiday a year; US workers have two "and feel guilty about taking it".

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), in a draft report on the UK industry's future released last week, takes a slightly more optimistic view, pointing out that UK labour productivity had narrowed the gap with the USA, but warns that it still "lags behind...its US and some European competitors".

The other area of concern is the growing technology gap across the Atlantic. "It will be a permanent feature," says Turner. While the UK and other European countries could maintain a high technology base by funding more advanced military or research aircraft projects, neither Turner nor the SBAC believes this is likely.

"The window to maintain a European capability in post-Eurofighter combat aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is closing fast," the SBAC says. Turner believes that, in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, it will be allowed to close: "Politicians talk about ETAP [a European aerospace research initiative], UAVs, unmanned combat air vehicles...but how much money has gone in? Nice try, but not good enough." Decline is inevitable without more technology research funding, the SBAC says, adding: "The current rate of technology acquisition will not support the industry."

Instead of trying to match the USA across the board, which is "unrealistic", investments should be made in areas like avionics and systems design, says the SBAC.

Source: Flight International