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Major aerospace programmes 'still on track' conference told

Civil and military aircraft programmes key to the North West aerospace sector and the region's economy are still on track with forward order projections remaining healthy, a major conference was told.

Crucial current programmes including Joint Strike Fighter, Eurofighter and the new generation Airbus family remain on course with demand and orders predicted to rise into the next decade, almost 150 delegates at the conference organised by the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) heard.

The event – The second Aerospace Supply Chain Excellence Programme Summit – heard keynote speakers from prime manufacturers BAE Systems and Airbus UK.

Alan White, of Airbus, reported that its key civil aircraft programmes were currently "flatlining" but the opportunity for future growth remained with projected demand for more than 9,000 new civil aircraft into the 2020s.

The A380 was a success and the company and the A350XWB wide-bodied long-range airliner was eagerly awaited. "The A350 is our biggest challenge and the market is waiting for this aircraft so we need to continue to reduce lead times and reduce time to market," said Mr White.

Demand for quieter, eco-efficient aircraft incorporating new technologies that would enable airlines to fly greater passenger payloads further and more efficiently would continue to drive the market, he added.

Airbus would be looking towards the supply chain to develop "extended enterprise" with "real partners".

From the military aircraft perspective, Phil Humphreys, of BAE Military Aircraft Systems, centred on the North West, said it was crucial that his company continued to be successful as every ten jobs at BAE Systems supported a further 13 in the supply chain. "Projected workload is very healthy across a wide range of platforms," he reported.

BAE planned to spend some £20 Billion over the next decade with up to £3 billion in its military aircraft business centred on the North West. The Joint Strike Fighter programme alone was expected to grow by a factor of seven each year once the production phase began.

His company, too, was looking for partners willing to share risk and contribute clarity and coherence to the supply chain.

NWAA Chief Executive Officer Martin Wright, said it was crucial to maintain a strong manufacturing base in the North West where the net worth of each aerospace job was worth five times the regional average. It was a "disgrace" that a recently leaked pre-crash Government memo indicated that the UK should be concentrating on developing financial services, leisure and tourism as its key industries.

"Now, the Government is talking about achieving a balanced economy, which is a swerve from the previous stance. Advanced engineering creates high value jobs and has to be a key part of our future economy.

"Engineering may yet achieve its rightful image in the eyes of Government, but it might achieve it through default in the light of what has happened over the past 12 months."

The conference heard that the Aerospace Supply Chain Excellence programme had provided training for almost 200 people and assisted more than 20 companies towards their target of becoming "world competitive". The first phase of the programme, based on lean learning, benchmarking and other key business techniques, aims to assist 45 companies within the supply chain by its completion in 2011.

NWAA Chairman Neil McKay reported that plans for a second phase of the programme which would promote greater collaboration between companies, form commodity groupings, promote shared services and encourage innovation, will be launched in August subject to final funding approval.

Press release issued by North West Aerospace Alliance on April 28, 2009


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