30 May 2017

China to attempt entry into the widebody market

China & Russia collaborate on rival to the A330 & Boeing 787

On May 22, United Aircraft Corp (UAC) of Russia and Comac from China launched a full scale development project for a commercial widebody aircraft, with the aim of entry into service in 2027. This represents China’s first foray into the widebody market. It is particularly notable because this time China has chosen to collaborate with the Russians, unlike on the C919 narrowbody which it is developing autonomously (albeit with Western technologies). The Russians have more commercial aerospace experience, which when combined by the financial backing of the Chinese government makes a potentially powerful cocktail.

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18 May 2017

Global Xpress has lift off

4th and final satellite launched

Inmarsat’s high profile but somewhat beleaguered Global Express (GX) programme is now almost fully operational. The fourth and final satellite, I-5 F4, was successfully sent into orbit on 15 May. This is significant for the Aerospace and Defence industry because the Global Xpress network provides new bandwidth capacity for secure mobile communications from ships, aircraft and vehicles.

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27 April 2017

China launches its first indigenous aircraft carrier

A show of force which will force the West to take notice

China celebrated the launch of its first domestically built aircraft carrier yesterday (Wednesday 26th April). Known as Type 001A, the ship is as yet unnamed and is the largest ever warship to be built by China. The televised launch comes at a time when tensions are running high in the region’s waters after the US deployed warships and a submarine to the Korean peninsula.

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21 April 2017

The MOD is open for business again

‘Accelerator’ project intended to encourage innovation but may also encourage acquisitions

Historically, defence technologies used to lead development of civilian technologies. However, military research and development (R&D) budgets have been constrained over the past five years so we have seen civilian technologies leading the way, particularly in the communications sphere. I was therefore encouraged to read about the UK MOD’s new ‘Accelerator’ programme, which funds novel, high-risk and high-potential benefit research to develop new capabilities for UK defence and security.

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5 April 2017

The evolution of in-flight entertainment

Will the new restrictions on electronic devices change IFE trends?

Recently I have been reading with interest about how avionic manufacturers are rethinking in-flight entertainment (IFE) given that almost every passenger now has their own electronic device, pre-loaded with their choice of films, television programmes and music. In a culture of ‘on demand’ entertainment, a small screen with poor sound quality, showing a fuzzy version of a relatively recent film understandably lacks the allure it used to hold. There is one school of thought that personal devices could soon remove the need for dedicated IFE systems altogether and I can see the logic in that. Well at least I could until the ban on electronic devices on certain routes from the Middle East was introduced. This unexpected change to the status quo has caused consternation amongst travellers with children and business passengers alike, and will no doubt have the avionics industry reassessing about what future IFE systems should look like.

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23 March 2017

Comac C919 aircraft to fly next month, three years late

Challenges remain though to establish a Chinese aerospace manufacturing industry

The first Chinese narrowbody aircraft, the Comac C919 looks set to make its first flight next month. This is a significant milestone which will attract the attention of the aerospace industry across the globe and the event will no doubt be lauded by the Chinese government. However, this maiden flight will be nearly three years late. When the programme was launched in 2008 the target for first flight was June 2014, with the first delivery due in 2016.

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9 March 2017

Is it a car or is it a plane?

Airbus looks to appoint car expert to its board

It seems my prophecy that 2017 could be the year of the flying car may not have been as implausible as it initially seemed. Last week Airbus proposed Lord Drayson, a self-confessed “car-nut” as an independent non-executive director.

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23 February 2017

All eyes on the Geared Turbofan

2017 is a make or break year for Pratt & Whitney’s beleaguered engine programme

The Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine is proof that innovating in aerospace is never an easy task. When Airbus and Boeing first introduced the concept of their new re-engined narrowbodies (A320neo and 737MAX) they were quick to reassure airlines and investors that this was a simple development proposition - a design modification rather than a clean sheet aircraft. I remember noting at the time that Airbus and Boeing were cleverly transferring the majority of engineering risk to the engine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and it has proved to be ever thus.

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17 February 2017

Court room dramas

Embraer & Brazil vs. Bombardier & Canada – round 2

Embraer and the Brazilian Government vs. Bombardier and the Canadian Government looks set to be the next aerospace courtroom drama. This follows hot on the heels of the aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing slogging it out in the courts over government’s providing financial support for new aircraft programmes, known commonly as ‘Launchaid’ (see Andy’s December blog). 2017 will see the aerospace minnow’s take to the stand in a replay of their previous drama, as Embraer has again complained to the World Trade Organisation about Canada’s support of Bombardier.

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26 January 2017

Uber in the sky

Could flight sharing apps rejuvenate the ailing bizjet market?

I recently read an interview with Embraer’s CEO where he discussed the ‘Uberization of business jets’. As an uber devotee, I started to investigate what this actually means and discovered that we may be on the brink of a structural change in the bizjet industry.

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Andy Chambers
6 December 2016

Who’s the daddy?

Airbus, Boeing, the WTO or the lawyers

As the latest round of chest beating by Boeing and Airbus dies away until the next round of appeals, I really start to wonder why the finger pointing and name calling persists. It seems to me that only one group of people are directly benefiting from the “discussion”, and I do not mean Joe public.

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24 November 2016

Is the last bastion of the UK Defence Industry at risk?

Urgent decisions are needed about UK shipbuilding

Naval Ships and Submarines are forecast to consume 40% of total UK defence equipment spending over the next decade, so you would think it is a safe assumption that shipbuilding is an excellent market for the likes of BAE Systems, Babcock and Rolls-Royce?  Last week’s report by the House of Commons Defence Committee suggests otherwise. MPs highlighted that decisions made over the next year about the Type 26 and Type 31 are critical in establishing whether skills can be maintained, budgets can be met and ships can be delivered on time.

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Andy Chambers
1 November 2016

It pays to be civil in the long run

Backlog execution should enable improved investor returns

By the end of September, Boeing and Airbus had surpassed an aggregate of 1,000 aircraft deliveries as previously announced product introductions and rate increases continue to drive up demand across the aerospace supply chain. By the year end the two companies are expected to deliver an aggregate of around 1425 aircraft, slightly higher than in 2015.

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27 October 2016

Consolidation in the Cyber market

Who will benefit from the super nomal levels of forecast growth?

The global Cyber attack last Friday is the latest stark reminder of how the defence and security market is changing. Attacks do not have to be physical in order to cause harm. Cyber attacks have the potential to be fatal or economically disastrous in just the same way as conventional warfare. As President Obama said on Monday “One of the biggest challenges for the next President, and the President after that is going to be how do we continue to get all the benefits of cyberspace but protect our finances, protect our privacy”. In a world where growth is hard to come by, new forecasts see the Cyber Security market growing 12-15% year on year until 2021. But is it clear what the products of the future will look like? And can we discern which protagonists will win market share?

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18 October 2016

Innovation in the defence industry

Is it industry or the the MOD that is too old to innovate?

There is uproar in the upper echelons of the defence industry. Last month Tony Douglas, CEO of the government’s Defence Equipment and Support group (DE&S) reportedly berated senior defence industry executives for all being over forty-five, implying that they are too old to be innovative. Ironically, in my previous blog ‘Brave new world for defence industry’ I highlighted that it is the Government’s cost cutting that is jeopardising long term innovation. So is Mr Douglas’ criticism fair? 

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11 October 2016

Heathrow vs. Gatwick?

The airport expansion debate rages on

Are we finally about to get an answer to the Heathrow vs. Gatwick airport expansion question? MPs are scheduled to debate the question of UK airport capacity next Tuesday (18 October) as the Prime Minister has indicated a desire to finally make a decision on an issue the Conservative Government has thus far managed to sweep under the carpet. Interestingly, the debate will be set against the backdrop of new research which shows that it is the road traffic in and around the airport that is the main contributor to emissions, not the aircraft themselves.

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5 October 2016

Do tanks have a future?

A look at how armour is evolving

Last month the British Army caused traffic chaos in London by driving a replica First World War tank and a modern Challenger tank around Trafalgar Square. This impressive, yet slightly anti-social display was to commemorate one hundred years of tank service. Seeing these two goliaths of warfare side by side, it struck me that whilst major technological advances have been made over the past century, a modern tank still looks remarkably similar to its predecessor. It made me question whether tanks one hundred years on will still look so similar? Or whether in fact modern warfare no longer needs tanks? These are questions that are likely to be preoccupying the military vehicle manufacturers such as General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Nexter.

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