Keep the French flag flying

AMJun19Features - gifas
AMJun19Features - gifas

Eric Trappier, the chairman of Groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales (GIFAS), presented the French aerospace and defence industry results last April.

Overall, the 2018 review indicated a strong year for the French aerospace and defence industry.

“Sales in 2018 increased to €65.4 billion (1.2% growth) making it a strong year for the sector with a very high export content of €44bn (stable) that accounts for 85% of consolidated sales,” stated Trappier when he presented the industry’s results. “The civilian sector mustered 77% of its sales. Once again, our sector, which is a pole of technological and economic excellence for France and Europe, posted a €27bn trade surplus, outperforming all the nation’s other sectors in 2018.”

In 2018, although orders remained at a very high level, they dipped to €58.2bn (17%), primarily in the civilian sector whose sales figure was down on the previous years’ level. After several years of very full order books, the situation signals a hiatus in a context of steadily rising production rhythms to meet the market’s high expectations fuelled by the growth in air traffic.

“We’re breaking all records; never have so many commercial aircraft been produced in France. The credit for this goes to the aeronautical supply chain’s performance, which deserves our applause. GIFAS now has 397 members, including 157 equipment manufacturers and 203 SMEs.

“The aerospace supply chain was beset with another challenging year, as production had to be ramped up, while prime contractors raised the stakes and new competitors including some ‘Native 4.0 competitors’ entering the fray.”

Patrick Daher, chairman of the GIFAS Groupe des Equipements (GEAD) added: “This crescendo is very largely due to the running of our industry, which is organised as a cohesive, responsive and dynamic sector, that involves the equipment manufacturers and SMEs in the growth of prime contractors.”

Meanwhile, Christophe Cador, chairman of the GIFAS Aero-SME Committee stated: “The aerospace sector is in fine shape. These high-performance levels force the supply chain to adapt its efforts constantly, with the attendant stumbling blocks of competitiveness and recruitment.”

Once again, 2018 saw new job records set with 195,000 men and women employed by the industry in France (190,000 in 2017), 15,000 new hires and the creation over 4,000 net jobs. Buoyed by the generally favourable environment, good business prospects, and a growing need for skills renewal, the industry increased its hiring level and created more new jobs in France.

“With 15,000 hires expected in 2019, our industry will continue to invest in new skills this year,” stated Trappier.

Furthermore, as the workforce included more than 7,300 apprentices and professionalisation contracts at the end of 2018 (7% more than in 2017), the industry will continue its work-study training efforts for young people in 2019.

These growing needs for skills are proof of the necessity to invest in skills learning. Part of the aerospace’s sector’s strategic contract is a plan to increase apprenticeships by 50% over the next five years, to meet the manufacturers’ demands for all levels of qualification, journeymen, technicians and engineers.

Trappier then turned his attention to the French dominance of the European space sector, which finds itself at a turning point where it needs to win back and transform both the launchers and satellites segments. He reminded the audience of the uniqueness of the French space industry whose prime growth drivers are exports and the commercial sector, in contrast with its competitors who can rely on captive institutional markets. He also took the opportunity to mention the first launch contracts signed for Ariane 6, recalling the changes to the global commercial launchers market and emphasising the fact that “the whole sector is behind Ariane 6 to counter American competition”.

Trappier went on to express his vision of Europe’s role as a major challenge for our industry, which is essentially European, be it historically or by calling. He underscored the fact that Europe has favoured the aerospace industry and that by the same token, the aerospace industry has led to the making of Europe.

The Chairman of GIFAS then reminded the audience of the pressing need to make aeronautics a strategic industrial priority of the European Union. He also stressed that in the area of space, institutional launches should focus on preferential European sourcing and thus ensure competitiveness in the commercial market.

Lastly, he reasserted the idea that building the Europe of Defence, implies building the Europe of skills. A key element of building an independent, sovereign Europe of Defence, and one that cooperates, is to support the development of a strong, ambitious European defence industry and launch more cooperative programmes that factor in the export aspect of equipment from the very outset. In the area of defence, he also recalled that given the competitive situation, preference for European-made equipment was the only possible option. Lastly, he mentioned the progress made by the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

He welcomed the European Commission’s initiatives on the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) and the future European Defence Fund.

Trappier concluded by highlighting the need to prepare for the future and tomorrow’s industry in a European context. He recalled that the French aerospace industry is supportive, sound and high-performing - a sector of excellence that entertains ambitions and is realistic.

It voices a double “Yes!” “Yes, to Europe” and “Yes, to our youth”, because the aerospace sector wants to include young people in its future successes and ambitions.

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