Farnborough Air Show

Boeing Increases Footprint in UK

 - July 13, 2018, 7:30 AM
An impression of the airliner maintenance hangar that Boeing is building at Gatwick airport.

At the last Farnborough International Airshow, the UK Ministry of Defence handed Boeing $6 billion worth of orders, for nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and 50 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. The message was that it was more cost-effective to buy from American production lines, but the UK aerospace industry would benefit from support business. Boeing said it would be creating another 2,000 jobs in the UK, therefore doubling its headcount in the country.

So has Boeing (Chalet B6, Outdoor Exhibit 7) made good on its promises? The company lists 10 separate activities that it runs in the UK. Some of them have been here a long time, such as the UK operations of wholly owned Boeing subsidiaries Aviall (a parts supplier) and Jeppesen (a navigation and flight planning provider). Some are obvious activities for one of the world’s two major airliner OEMs, such as Commercial Aviation Services, a company that employs 100 people who support Boeing airline customers in the UK and Europe.

It is also obvious that Boeing should tap British suppliers for parts for new-airliner production. The company says that it has tripled its supply chain spending in the UK since 2011, spending £2.1 billion ($2.8 million) in 2016. It has committed to increasing overall bid opportunities offered to UK suppliers and says that it is working with the UK government to enhance the competitiveness of UK suppliers.

Perhaps not so obvious is a long-term contract with QinetiQ to evaluate commercial aircraft designs in the British company’s five-meter wind tunnel at TAG Farnborough Airport. John Anderson, QinetiQ’s managing director air and space, told AIN: “The wind tunnel has played a crucial role in the development of Boeing’s 787 and 777X”- but it’s a contract that has been in place since 2004.

What is new is the company’s first manufacturing facility in Europe, plus a maintenance hangar at Gatwick Airport, and a commitment to expand the  Flight Services Training business at nearby Crawley to become Boeing’s largest training center outside the U.S.

By the end of this year, the manufacturing facility under construction at Sheffield will be producing flap actuation system components for the Next-Generation 737, the 737 Max, and 777 airliners. The Sheffield facility will initially employ 30 people, growing to more than 50 employees. They will produce up to 8,000 parts a month that will be shipped to Boeing’s facility in Oregon where actuation systems are assembled.

The airliner overhaul facility at Gatwick is expected to open next year. Costing £88 million ($115 million), Boeing says it will create 100 direct jobs and another 100 indirect jobs in the area.

Another 100 jobs will be created at RAF Lossiemouth in a new £100 million ($132 million) operational support and training base for the P-8As, although that is largely a UK Ministry of Defence investment.  

However, Boeing has made an investment in Reaction Engines, the British hypersonic powerplant development specialist. “As Reaction Engines unlocks advanced propulsion that could change the future of air and space travel, we expect to leverage their revolutionary technology to support Boeing’s pursuit of hypersonic flight,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president of HorizonX, the Boeing entity that was created to invest in technology offered by new-venture startups.

Boeing also says that it is supporting research at six British universities (Bristol, Cambridge, Cranfield, Sheffield, Strathclyde, and Southampton), plus various education and volunteering activities in schools.