John Douglass hands over the presidency of the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association next week to former Federal Aviation Administration administrator Marion Blakey after a nine-and-a-half-year tenure.
Douglass, who is attending the Dubai Airshow, talked to AIN about a U.S. aerospace industry that finds itself in good health as it prepares for a presidential election in 2008 and faces growing challenges from an increasingly competitive global industry.
“It looks as if 2007 will be the best year in our history,” he said. “Overall sales are set to reach $195 to $200 billion, which reflects the fact that all three sectors–commercial, military and space–are all on a high at the moment.” The upward trend for all three sectors “seems to be long term,” he added, pointing to both Republican and Democrat support for even higher spending on research and development, which “will ensure the foundations for our technology leadership remain in place.”
Against this positive image, the landscape is changing, however. “What’s interesting is the inexorable movement towards civil aerospace which in the last ten years has gone from a backlog of around $200 million to between $300 million to $400 million in the last two or three.” This will result in the overall proportion of sales moving from 50 percent civil to “around 74 percent” in two years, said Douglass.
The reason lies with industry’s domination by the global economy, “which has implications for the other two sectors because they must adapt and integrate so that more equipment reads across all three.” So basic items such as engines, avionics, altimeters, pumps and wiring “should be the same whether they’re for the military or civil sectors.”
In the Middle East, and particularly the UAE, the sales picture “is very good in the short term,” says Douglass. “Longer term is harder to predict because the Middle East is related to the war on terror, politics and other factors.”
Douglass admits the world has become a far more competitive place in which to do business than it was when he took over the helm at AIA. “That’s why we have to pursue global relationships,” he stressed. Douglass believes the U.S. will continue to dominate the aerospace industry because of its continued high investment in technology. He welcomes the appointment of his successor, Marion Blakey, who, he said, brings a “distinguished record at the FAA and is ideally suited to the job.”