With Farnborough International Airshow going virtual, and with most of the aircraft that would normally fly delegates in from all over the world on the ground, waiting until it is safe for wide-spread travel again the big challenge facing the UK is how to save the aerospace industry from the most serious consequences of the crisis.
With airlines cutting or suspending orders for new aircraft, the aerospace industry, which brings £36 billion in revenue to the UK economy and provides more than 250,000 high-value jobs, is being hit hard. Large and small companies have had no option but to downsize their operations and workforces rapidly.
Early on in the crisis, the Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA), the not-for-profit organisation which supports the region, recognised the crisis and has been working on a Five Point Plan, focused on aerospace supply chains, which the organisation has now unveiled.
The Five Point Plan was developed with the support of 22 aerospace experts; 56 survey respondents (representing a sample of 20 per cent of Midlands aerospace supply chain companies), 60 regional aerospace business leaders, 240 industry stakeholder organisations and the Black Country Consortium which is responsible for the aerospace sector strategy for the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The cluster of aerospace companies in the Midlands is one of the largest in the world.
Aerospace suppliers that make parts for varied aircraft programmes, and those that also supply other market sectors in the Midlands engineering supercluster, for example rail, should be in a stronger position than those dependent on the production of the large, long- haul civil aircraft that have been hardest hit. But conditions are tough for all.
Although it’s almost impossible to make reliable forecasts, the MAA is expecting the lowest point for the industry to come later in 2020 before demand begins to pick up in 2021. However, the organisation anticipates that it could take until 2025 for the industry to recover and return to its previous growth trajectory.
In its plan, the MAA has established five key priorities, over twenty critical actions and the guiding principles it believes will enable aerospace supply chain companies to survive this crisis and bounce back with capabilities, capacity and competitiveness intact.
The plan has been developed by bringing together aerospace experts across industry, academia and government to work through the critical and complex issues. The MAA has also carried out extensive consultation and discussions throughout the region.
Dr Andrew Mair, Chief Executive of the MAA, said: “We have all had to react rapidly as the crisis has started to unfold and many aerospace companies are experiencing serious difficulties. Now we have a plan in place, we will be working with key stakeholders to agree the best approach to implementation to ensure the industry, which contributes so much to the UK economy, not only survives the crisis but returns to growth in the future.”
The plan will continue to evolve as the crisis develops to ensure the right actions continue to be taken nationally and regionally to help return the UK economy to prosperity.