Aviation is flying high but running out of space to operate

ADS Group reports that aircraft production between January and November 2015 was up 5 per cent per cent on 2014 levels and there was more good news for aerospace at the end of last week.

On February 5, 2016 the department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) announced that Loughborough University would receive £9.8m to create a new open access National Centre of Excellence in Gas Turbine Combustion Aerodynamics.

Due to be operational by 2018, the new centre is expected to lead research and technology development in gas turbine combustion and give industry access to advanced facilities within it.

The funding follows a government commitment in the 2015 Spending Review of an extra £900m over 10 years for aerospace R&D. With match funding from industry, a total joint commitment of £3.9bn is available from 2013.

BIS said the aim of the Centre will be to “research and test new greener and more efficient combustion technologies required to meet emissions targets and drive product competitiveness.”

According to ADS, commercial aircraft production levels have grown by nearly 50 per cent since 2009, with a new aircraft ordered on average every four hours and delivered every 6.5 hours globally in 2015.

In 2015, 1,397 aircraft were built, bringing with them an increase in value to UK industry of around £3bn.

Interesting that the UK can – in this briefest of recent industry snapshots – present a compelling case for continued investment in the hardware that makes flight possible whilst the infrastructure on which it can operate remains open to debate.

For this reason, the government Transport Committee will today question Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, on his reasons for avoiding a decision on a new runway in the south east of England, and on his future timetable for airport expansion.

A decision on a new runway was expected by the end of 2015, but this has been postponed until after London’s mayoral election in May.

In July 2015, Airports Commission Chairman Sir Howard Davies said that a third runway at Heathrow ‘presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits’.

Mayoral candidates Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) oppose expansion at Heathrow and many are keen to remind PM David Cameron of his pre-election promise of 2009 not to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Louise Ellman MP, chair of the Transport Committee says that businesses are making investment decisions now and need to know that the UK is capable of making ‘tough choices on infrastructure and international connectivity.’

Over the weekend, 13 construction and development firms are said to have written to George Osborne urging him to support a third runway at Heathrow.

According to the Express & Star, the letter to Osborne said Heathrow has provided a “steady base of work” during the economic downturn and expansion would bring “a £15.6bn order book to the UK supply chain”.

Furthermore, according to today’s City AM, hedge fund boss Crispin Odey has weighed in with an open letter saying: “The answer to the government’s conundrum is actually quite plain: stop fixating on Heathrow and expand Gatwick.

“Gatwick faces no legal impediment to expansion, whereas Heathrow’s expansion has been permanently stalled by noise and air quality issues and will continue to be so in future. Above all, the business community wants something to happen – and Gatwick is the option that can happen. We should get on with it.”

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