Air League Parliamentary Event – Raising Tempo In Future Aviation and Aerospace Debate


Yesterday, the Air League hosted an Parliamentary event at House of Commons as a prelude to Farnborough International Airshow 2018. Sponsored by Airbus and Lockheed Martin, a panel of experts discussed their plans for the airshow and debated a range of issues necessary to ensure the UK remains a global leader in aviation and aerospace.

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd and a long-time member of the Air League provided the following commentary of the event:

“I have long regarded the primary missions of the Air League being to generate national understanding of the importance to the UK of aviation and aerospace and to excite young people’s interest in these areas by helping them to become involved.

Along with other very worthy institutions such as the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Air League has a long and very successful tradition of supporting the UK aviation community in Parliament through the hosting of receptions, debates and by producing policy papers that not only articulate concerns of members but that also emphasise the importance of investing in advanced technologies and crucial industry skills considered vital to the economic success of the UK.

As a long time influential champion of UK based aviation and aerospace growth and one that I consider to have been at the forefront of influencing public policy in the debate, the Air League chose to host a private debate in the House of Commons yesterday which had at its heart not only the need to consider various Brexit related issues that the UK aviation and aerospace industries are very concerned with but also what I sincerely hope will have been the first in a new and much needed series of debates intended to invigorate and lead future aviation and aerospace related public policy.

As a prelude to this years’ Farnborough International Airshow and with Brexit concerns causing considerable doubts in the minds of those engaged across the spectrum of aviation related sectors this important and very well attended debate was certainly timely.  Sponsored by Airbus and Lockheed Martin and chaired by House of Commons Defence Select Committee chairman, Dr. Julian Lewis MP, an audience comprising members of the House of Commons and House of Lords together with invited guests discussed a range of issues with a panel of invited experts of what needs to be done to ensure the UK can remain a global leader in aviation and aerospace post Brexit.

Chairman of the Air League, John Steel QC, opened the debate by expressing a wide range of comments in relation to the need for industry to develop a more constructive dialogue with Parliament, Air League policy positions in relation to Leading Edge technologies and STEM investment and the need for clarity by all parties in the debate. 

Mark Phillips, Head of Government Affairs at Lockheed Martin UK, emphasised on what we already have achieved and not surprisingly used the brilliant example of international industrial collaboration in the form of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and also of the opportunities this aircraft build programme and follow on maintenance requirement will provide for the UK defence industrial base over the next thirty years or more. He told us that for every one pound that the UK has invested on the F-35 programme it receives three pounds back from what it delivers from the 15% share that it has in the aircraft manufacturing programme.   

Jeremy Greaves, VP Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Airbus stressed the need for clarity and reminded of the importance of what Airbus does here in the UK. He talked of Airbus having a forward order book of 7,000 aircraft and provided an interesting update of various Airbus commercial aircraft programmes including the 50.1% share the company had acquired in the Bombardier ‘C’ Series aircraft for which the wings are made in Belfast, he reminded of the industry’s great strength that is very visible within Airbus civil aviation market forecasts and he went on to talk about some of the already well-aired Brexit issues, particularly those relating to big problem areas for Airbus such as customs and certification issues. Finally, having talked about how Airbus has invested heavily in apprentice and graduate training schemes over the years in order to manage its skills requirement, he mentioned the uncertainty regarding the Galileo space communications partnership that has up to now included the UK he went onto talk about other fascinating new programmes such as Zephyr.

Chief Strategy Officer of the Aerospace Technology Institute, James McMicking provided some interesting detail of key ATI research and development programmes and emphasised key imperatives for UK competitiveness. Apart from highlighting the importance of the UK being the centre of excellence for wing technology he talked about the future in the form of propulsions systems, high value design products as well as the key components of productivity and competitiveness, skills and the need for the UK to be a lead manufacturer.

Paul Everitt, CEO of the UK trade association ADS talked mainly about the upcoming Farnborough International Airshow and mentioned some of the highlights of the seven-day event. He did however emphasise the work of trade association in warning and advising the government in relation to industry requirements post Brexit and the need to drive investment and innovation.

With Brexit negotiations now reaching a crucial stage and with uncertainty and lack of clarity being the greatest concerns of those to whom leaving the European Union impacts on most, it is of necessity that influential bodies and organisations such as the Air League step up to the plate by raising the tenure of debate in order to ensure that the UK aviation and aerospace industries can continue to prosper when we find ourselves outside of the European Union”.

This event was sponsored by:

Huge thanks to Ian Bentley-Smith for the event pictures.

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