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Will The US Continue to Dominate the Aircraft Manufacturing Sector?

Yes, most of the greatest aerospace engineering designs come from the United States, and until now the United States has dominated the aircraft manufacturing industry. However, that is all changing now, some believe it is due to the unions, and others blame overseas and international competitors who are capitalizing on our former intellectual property. China is now starting to make light aircraft, and working on partnerships to create light jets, while also coming out with their own indigenous manufactured airliner. Canada and Brazil also have airline manufacturing companies, and they are making business jets as well.

We all know that Airbus, Falcon, and other aircraft manufacturers in Europe have been quite strong. In the United States we make most of the business jets, but we aren’t necessarily making all the components in the United States anymore. One of the biggest outsourced companies for general aviation aircraft is Mexico. Hawker noted in Aviation International News (June 2011 issue) that they were expanding their Mexico plant to 1,000 workers, that’s double what it is now.

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Nicholas Casey published on July 29, 2011 titled; “The New Learjet… Now Mexican Made – Low Labor Costs Attract Bombardier, Which Employs 1600 People; Fuselages Where Cacti Once Stood.” The article noted the favorable business climate and solid labor supply.

As you can see, the United States isn’t the only country which is capitalizing on Mexico’s labor force to build aircraft. Mexico isn’t missing a beat either, as there are now aeronautics universities training future engineers and airframe mechanics. You’d be surprised how many companies in the aerospace industry in the United States outsource the manufacturing of equipment and components to Mexico. Recently we’ve seen challenges with the union and Boeing. We’ve also witnessed the further degradation of general aircraft manufacturing in Wichita Kansas.

The competition is getting fiercer and therefore companies are trying to cut costs. Will outsourcing to Mexico help US aircraft manufacturers compete with China’s future general aviation aircraft, light business jets, and small passenger airliners? The answer is maybe yes, and maybe no, and it is perhaps one solution to ditch the high cost labor, the challenges from unions, and all the rules and regulations in the United States. Aircraft manufacturers cannot compete on price, only on quality. But even that is starting to change.