While the US aerospace industry’s boom days may be coming to a close, it remains well-positioned to survive economic hard times, Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion Blakey said yesterday. “The gangbuster trends of the last few years for our industry are almost certainly over for a while. But we don’t anticipate a downturn in the near term, either,” she said in her speech at AIA’s year-end review and forecast event in Washington, D.C. The aerospace sector provides more than two million middle-class jobs and remains America’s leading manufacturing export industry, accounting for about $97 billion in exports annually, she said. Overall sales in the industry are on pace to hit $204 billion in 2008, an increase of 2.1 percent. And, AIA is forecasting modest growth for 2009, projecting overall sales of $214 billion, she said. While many sectors of the economy are hurting right now, 2008 saw a positive foreign trade balance in the aerospace industry of $61 billion, a figure representing the largest positive balance of any US manufacturing sector, she said. Blakey acknowledged that the country is in middle of “extraordinary economic times,” but cautioned policy-makers not to use the aerospace industry as a “bill payer for other areas of the federal budget,” saying it would hurt the economy in the long term. While defense research and development budgets are expected to decrease generally, the incoming Obama Administration has expressed support for scientific research and development efforts, and has called for doubling federal funding for basic science research and making the current R&D tax credit permanent, Blakey said.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.