The UK aerospace industry: a decade after Concorde
Precisely 10 years ago today, Concorde - arguably one of the UK's greatest aviation achievements - took off from Heathrow Airport for the last time.
The super-sonic plane had been assumed to forever change the face of long-haul air travel; yet translating its iconic design into long-term commercial success proved difficult given high maintenance costs and low utilisation rates.
Concorde’s withdrawal from service in 2003 was a pivotal point for the UK’s world-class aerospace industry. At the time, transatlantic flight times doubled and many commentators believed that the jet’s retirement would mean a big step backwards for the UK aerospace industry. Yet in the last decade, orders and productivity for the sector have grown by 40%.
Commenting on the 10 year anniversary of the Concorde’s last flight, Paul Everitt, chief executive of the aerospace trade organisation ADS Group said: “From the depths of the recession, the industry has grown by over 40% and is one of the few sectors in the economy generating highly-skilled, well-paid jobs, significant investments in innovation and the high-tech exports the UK economy needs. This growth is being built on by the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which included the single biggest government investment in the aerospace industry since the Concorde era.”
The aerospace industry – a summary
• The UK currently has a 17% global market share and is second only to the US globally.
• The UK exports 75% of what it produces, generating £12bn in revenues.
• There is an expected global demand for 29,000 new large commercial aircraft, 24,000 business jets and 12,800 regional aircraft between now and 2030.
• High growth economies account for 45-60% of this new demand which is estimated to be worth £2.8tn.
• The aerospace industry employs over 230,000 people.
The UK is also a market leader in high-value, high technology areas such as the design and manufacture of large aircraft wings; aero engines; helicopters, and advanced systems- including land gear, fuel, mechanical, avionics and electrical power.
Technologies that evolved from the Concorde for later use in modern aircraft include fly-by-wire flight controls, full-regime autopilot and auto-throttle for flight management, high-pressure hydraulics, and the use of advanced manufacturing techniques.
The next generation of aircraft are set to feature substantially different technologies from those used today however, as airlines look to become leaner and greener as legislation changes. As such, the UK has invested in research and design, to ensure the UK’s position is protected in the face of growing international competition and such technological changes.
The Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP), a joint initiative between government and industry, is one such programme created to ensure the UK aerospace industry’s continued success.
The Aerospace Growth Partnership:
• The Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) was launched 2012 and in March 2013, the AGP released its’ Industrial Strategy to meet their aims of retaining the UK’s market leading position whilst providing long-term support and certainty to the aerospace industry.
• The UK Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) is a key outcome of this investment whose core objective is to deliver a long-term strategic vision for the UK, operating across four streams of focus: aerodynamics, propulsion, aero-structures and advanced systems.
• Government and industry are jointly investing £2bn over the next seven years in the ATI.
• The ATI could secure up to 115,000 jobs in the sector and its supply chains in the long term.
• The UK Aerodynamics Centre was announced in 2013. This will provide a virtual centre for aerodynamics; pushing technological boundaries through collaborative research and development.
• A £40bn investment in the creation of a National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme. The programme will help mature 100 underdeveloped producers of manufacturing process technologies over the next four years.
One decade after Concorde, it is clear that the UK aerospace industry is going from strength to strength. Government and industry are continuing to build upon the strong foundations set out in the Aerospace Growth Partnership in order to deliver the technologies, skills, capabilities and investment at a pace that allows the UK to exploit the potential $352bn market share for the UK by 2030.