Farnborough Air Show

Aerospace central to Britain’s economy

 - July 14, 2008, 11:10 AM

 Aerospace, which employs 12,000 people in the UK and is worth an annual £20 billion ($39.8 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product, “will remain central to the British economy and our future as a high-tech manufacturing nation.”

That message came from John Hutton MP, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory reform, during an address at Farnborough yesterday morning to open the show. And in an apparent reference to the controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, he asserted that the government would “take the necessary decisions on airport capacity. The British people would not forgive us if we didn’t.

“We all understand the importance of aviation to the British economy. So we will help make flying greener, rather than restricting people’s opportunities to fly. Achieving a sustainable balance between economic, social and environmental concerns is essential to the continued success of every business in this new century.”

The UK government is taking the lead in helping reform the global system of oil production, he added. “The only way to protect companies from future oil price rises is to become energy efficient and transform the world as quickly as possible to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

Allan Cook, president of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, underlined Hutton’s message. The aerospace industry in the UK is growing faster than the overall economy at 5 percent annually, he said, but after several years of growth it is facing the impact of oil price rises and the credit crunch. A high-level conference on Wednesday will attempt to “work out how aviation can be part of the solution” to sustainability.

The airshow is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Cook said, and aircraft types that flew at the first show in 1948, when there were a relatively modest 187 exhibitors, will feature during the public day displays next weekend. The 60th anniversary theme will also be reflected in the exhibition halls, where mime artists will represent some key periods in the show’s distinguished history and Hall 3 boasts a spectacularly designed Lazard Champagne Lounge.

The number of exhibitors this year has grown 5 percent from the 2006 level, to pass the 1,500 mark, and the organizers expect 140,000 visitors during the show’s five trade days, along with high-level commercial and military delegations from 39 countries.

Next October sees the 100th anniversary of the first airplane flight in the UK here at Farnborough, and a nonflying replica of the Cody Flyer that made the historic takeoff is on show in the International Pioneers of Flight Pavilion, presented by BAE Systems. Along with the replica Flyer, the pavilion houses full-scale replicas of the 1908 Avro Biplane, 1909 Wright B Flyer and 1910 Avro Triplane. There are also two interactive historic flight simulators to re-create the experience of flying one of the world’s first aircraft.

It is important to safeguard the future as well as celebrating the achievements of the past, Cook added. “It is vital that we have a stream of committed young people coming into the industry. It offers fantastic opportunities for young people and the International Youth Day on Friday will give them a chance to see exactly what we’re doing.”