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Aerospace Industry

ASTAAerospace Technologies of Australia
CACCommonwealth Aircraft Corporation
GAFGovernment Aircraft Factory
HdHHawker de Havilland
The aerospace sector comprises a few large aerospace companies and several hundred small to medium enterprises across a diverse range of specialist and technical businesses that form part of the critical supply chain to the prime companies and assembly operations. Australia's aerospace industry employed around 11,000 people with a turnover of $1.7 billion as of 2007. Imports averaged around $3 billion per year, depending on the phasing of large aircraft purchases. Imports from the US over the three years 2004-2006 averaged $1.8 billion, however the trend was downward. The decision by Qantas to include Airbus aircraft in its fleet, and the Australian Department of Defense transition from American to European helicopters is eroding the traditional dominance of US manufacturers in the commercial and defense segments. Spares and parts may not be so adversely affected as the U.S. is still regarded as the best source for these.

Australia's aerospace industry traditionally survived as a vital limb of the Australian Defence Forces, dependent on the support work thrown up by the equipment already in existence and picking hungrily at the offcuts of new equipment buys. Support work flowed steadily through the industry, but, by virtue of Australia's limited requirements, new equipment buys are not regular. When the new equipment came in, industry feasted richly. In the long periods between, the diet was more plain.

In both Australia and Canada, the peak of Aviation production during World War II was roughly a hundred times larger than the level of activity before the war. But the Canadian industry employed three times as many workers, and produced more than four times as many aircraft. A fundamental difference is that Australian industry was producing aircraft for the Australian air forces, while Canada was producing aircraft for the air forces of the United States and the United Kingdom. In both countries, efforts were made after World War II to sustain a viable aviation industry. In both countries, the subsequent decades were marked by notable successes and memorable failures. In both countries, domestic industry was confronted by the inexorable growth in the cost and complexity of both civil and military aircraft, which increasingly surpassed the scale that could be maintained by the relatively modest scale of domestic industry.

Both countries gave up on trying to design and develop indigenous fighter aircraft projects. Australia abandoned this quest almost immediately, after a single jet-powered "paper plane" project that has left almost no trace. Canada developed three jet-powered fighter aircraft designs, one of which entered serial production. The second was a paper plane, and the third was famously cancelled after prototypes flew, a controversy which echoes to this day. But Canada soldiered on, enjoying considerable success with transport aircraft, and finally hit paydirt with Bombardier highly successful [and extremely cramped] series of regional jets. Along the way, Bombardier Aerospace gobbled up the four other Canadian aircraft companies to become the national champion in the industry. Total aerospace industry employment exceeds 80,000 workers. The aerospace industry is more export intensive in Canada than in other countries, with more than 70 percent of its production exported. About 60 percent of Canada’s aerospace exports are to the United States. Total revenues for Canada’s aerospace industry were $18.5 billion in 2008.

Australia's story turned out differently. Australia abandoned independent aircraft design efforts in the early 1980s, and gave up on local fabrication of imported aircraft design in the late 1980s. The three major Australian aircraft companies were subsequently gobbled up by Boeing, which now accounts for a third of all Australian aviation employment of 12,000 workers.

By another, broader, accounting, Boeing Australia is 16.2% of the industry, with BAE Systems at 12.2%, Australian Aerospace Ltd at 10.7%, Hawker Pacific at 4.6%, and Other accounting for 56.3%. BAE Systems Australia employs more than 6,000 people in urban, regional and remote locations across the country. BAE Systems Australia is Australia’s largest defence company and offers the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and security customers total capability across the defence and security domains. Australian Aerospace Limited (Australian Aerospace) is Australia-Pacific’s leading supplier of civil and military helicopters and aerospace services including fixed-wing military maintenance and support. The company is wholly owned by the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter, itself being part of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). The company can trace its heritage in Australia back to 1927 and with a turnover in 2009 of $A780 million, Australian Aerospace employs more than 1100 people across 14 sites. Hawker Pacific is the largest independent aviation sales and product support company of its type in Australasia, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.

To ensure sustainable growth of the industry, the Australian government established the Australian Aerospace Industry Forum in 2006. The Forum was established to ensure the continued development of a sustainable aerospace industry, to promote Australian capabilities and to provide a collective industry voice to government on current issues. The Forum has a broad membership comprised of large aerospace firms with operations in Australia, a representative group of small to medium enterprises, institutions whose primary activity relates to the aerospace industry and associations that represent the local aerospace industry.

The Australian aerospace industry makes a significant contribution to the national economy. As of 2012 pproximately 750 firms employed 12,000 people; the industry had an annual turnover of more than $4 billion. Of this sum, 20% was exported. The industry had a high technology base, is globally integrated and supplies to major international prime contractors. Its involvement with the Boeing 787 project and the Joint Strike Fighter program demonstrate the industry's expertise and competitiveness.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2012 18:13:13 ZULU