UK Aerospace Industry Raises Concerns over Political Instability

 - November 29, 2022, 7:20 AM
The UK has had three Prime Ministers since the country hosted the most recent Farnborough International Airshow in July 2022. (Image: AIN/David McIntosh)

Members of UK industry group Aerospace, Defense, Security and Space (ADS) are concerned about a lack of political stability from the country’s government, which is now being led by its third prime minister in 2022. The association’s chief executive, Kevin Craven, told attendees at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference on November 29 that a recent survey of his members revealed “for the first time” concern about a lack of certainty over the UK’s political leadership at a time when companies face unprecedented challenges including supply chain disruption, rising fuel costs, and skills shortages.

According to Craven, the UK industry faces significant challenges in boosting the resilience of its supply chain to support continuing ramp-ups in the production of commercial aircraft. He also pointed to concerns over available funding for research and development in the wake of the new UK government’s recently announced cuts in public spending. “We’ve had a tough budget and it’s important that the government remains focused on co-investing [with companies] for the UK to be one of the winners in the face of global competition,” he stated.

Addressing the same conference in London, the UK’s new aviation minister, Baroness Vere, said the aerospace industry’s future prosperity is directly linked to its ability to decarbonize. Pointing to the existing Jet Zero strategy, she said UK domestic airline flights, and also the airports they use, should achieve the net-zero goal by 2040.

While pointing to the UK’s Jet Zero strategy, Vere noticeably did not commit to fresh rounds of funding. She emphasized existing funding worth £156 million to meet the objective of having at least five sustainable aviation fuel production plants under construction by 2025 to support the government’s target of having sufficient SAF to meet 10 percent of the UK air transport industry’s fuel needs by 2030.

Vere also called on the industry to accelerate efforts to modernize airspace management to make flying “quieter, cleaner, and with fewer delays.” She expressed some frustration at the slow pace of progress in this effort, concluding that the industry “needs to look at their plans again and speed up the production of a new airspace [system] earlier.”

The minister told conference attendees that the first meeting of the UK’s new Aviation Council will not be held until early in 2023. She said the joint industry-government group will review the existing Flightpath for the Future modernization strategy that was published in May 2022.

According to Andreas Schäfer, professor of energy and transport with University College London, the journey towards the air transport industry’s longer-term goal of achieving a net-zero carbon goal by 2050 could be impacted by falling demand for flights resulting from an anticipated 15 percent increase in ticket costs as a result of the use of more costly alternatives to fossil fuel. He argued that the industry will need to dramatically increase the construction of plants for manufacturing synthetic fuels over the next five to 10 years if it is to meet the net-zero objectives.