Deeper industry collaboration and government support will help Europe’s aerospace companies ride out the coronavirus pandemic, sector leaders said on Monday, as they juggle lower revenues with the need to invest in cleaner air travel for the future.
Europe’s biggest aerospace and defence companies Airbus (AIR.PA), BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Leonardo (LDOF.MI) had expected to spend this week showcasing aircraft and entertaining clients at the biennial Farnborough Airshow in southern England.
But with the event cancelled, chief executives instead joined a webcast as part of “Virtual Farnborough” to discuss coping strategies for the gravest crisis in commercial aviation history.
“I think the challenge is to keep investing in spite of the crisis that is taking away a lot of our investment capacity,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said.
Faury said co-operation between governments, bigger companies and smaller suppliers was better than he had seen for years, and that was helping processes become faster and cheaper.
Britain’s aerospace industry, which employs 375,000, is not only facing the COVID-19 crisis, but also the threat of a disorderly exit from the European Union when a transition period ends this year.
Tony Wood, CEO of UK-based Meggitt (MGGT.L) which supplies parts to aircraft manufacturers, called on the UK government to do more to accelerate programmes such as Tempest, a UK plan to build a new fighter jet, and investment in a zero-emissions flight to help boost the industry.
“We’re in close dialogue with the government. We’ll be talking to them further this week, and hoping to try and accelerate and conclude some of those agreements,” Wood said.
Faury said he continued to see the relationship between Airbus and Britain, where Airbus produces wings, as a “successful partnership”.
On the possibility of a disorderly Brexit, he said: “We don’t like it, but it’s one problem among others that we have to solve.”
Britain’s business minister Alok Sharma said on Monday that the government would provide grants totalling 200 million pounds ($252 million) to support technology to make flying more efficient.