- The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.
European Flag    Europa The European Commission Research Fifth Framework ProgrammeGrowth Aeronautics

4. How is European Aeronautics Doing?










A Story of Success
European Aeronautics is an outstanding success story (see box). Europe has developed products that have influenced global aeronautics operations. It has produced many world firsts.

European airspace copes with an unprecedented number of passengers. In the defence field European aerospace products are used around the world for the protection and security of nations. The nations of Europe have an unrivalled ability to mount successful international collaborative projects on the most advanced technology-based products, civil as well as in defence.

It has created, in Airbus Industrie, a world leading supplier, this year outselling the USA in large airliners, and European world-class capabilities in its engine and equipment sectors.

In research the European Union Framework Programmes for aeronautics have grown in importance and improved in focus and delivery leading to the inclusion of aeronautics as a "Key Action" in the 5th Framework Programme. An important new approach was the introduction of large-scale integration projects. This Programme has had significant practical influence on the positioning of the national civil aeronautics programmes.

Some European Firsts

  • Supersonic Airliner - Concorde.
  • Vertical Take-Off and Landing combat fighter - Harrier.
  • All-weather automatic landing systems.
  • Fly-by-wire airliner - Airbus.
  • Digital auto-flight system - Airbus.
  • Helicopters with turbine engines - Eurocopter.
  • 3-Shaft engine - Rolls Royce.
  • Two man, "Glass cockpit", wide-body airliner - Airbus.

Aeronautics has been able to support European economic growth while implementing dramatic reductions in noise and fuel consumption. Noise outside the airport confines is now similar to that of motorway traffic. Over the past 20 years aircraft fuel consumption per flight has been reduced by 30-40%.

Technologies developed
in aeronautics and now in general use

  • Aerodynamic and aero-acoustic shaping of cars.
  • Disc brakes for cars and trains and Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS).
  • Software systems for displays. Computer techniques for assessing structural efficiency of buildings, cars, and equipment.
  • Composite materials including carbon fibre.
  • Materials for artificial limbs and for replacement joints.
  • Thermal imaging cameras for police and rescue work.
  • Advanced business processes for project management.

Facing Strong Competition

The market for aeronautical products is global - every customer in the world can find competitive products vying for orders. The biggest players by a long way are Europe and the USA. Competition is fierce between them.

Both have a large and talented workforce. Both had many successes in the first century of aeronautics. But the USA has a strategy - a determination to dominate in aerospace - and it signals this on every world stage. NASA has no parallel in Europe. Boeing, America's major aerospace company, has a civil turnover nearly 3 times that of Airbus Industrie. The US Administration has a record of sustained support to its aerospace industry.

American unified public funding for aeronautics far surpasses Europe's combined investment, which is itself fragmented around the nations of the EU. Europe has no clear, coherent strategy for continued success. More rational funding for research and technology must be seen as a key element of a European aeronautics policy.

Despite these factors Europe now competes head to head in large aircraft, in aero engines and in equipment.

Delivering a string of wider benefits
In addition to these economic successes European aeronautics delivers a steady flow of technologies - developed in aerospace for high performance at high cost - but passed on to the wider economy for low cost applications (see box).

  Search Top