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19 Jan 07. Airbus UK risks losing out to the aircraft maker’s rival plants in Germany or Spain in securing a £100m (€152m) investment for the next generation of Airbus aircraft, potentially undermining the company’s long-term manufacturing presence in Britain. The loss of the investment would be bitterly resisted by the company’s UK trades unions and prove politically awkward for the government, which has consistently backed the engagement of Airbus in the UK and invested £530m in repayable launch aid for the development of the A380 superjumbo. At risk is Airbus’ investment in the key components work for the proposed new family of A350’s aircraft’s wings, which for the first time for an Airbus commercial jet will be built from composite materials rather than aluminium. The government has believed since late 1995 that this work would be awarded to Airbus UK. A site at the Airbus UK headquarters at Filton, near Bristol was cleared last year for the plant. However, losses at Airbus and its dwindling competitiveness against Boeing have forced it comprehensively to restructure and rationalise its European industrial operations. The award to the UK of the composites work now appears threatened. Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice-president programmes, said “there is certainly a risk” the investment would not come to Airbus UK, because the expertise to make such large-scale components in composite carbon fibre materials already existed at Airbus plants in Germany and Spain. “In terms of [manufacturing] primary load-bearing structures in composites, they don’t have much experience in the UK,” he said. Airbus will decide within weeks where in Europe to locate the manufacture of the key parts of the A350XWB, the new family of 270-350-seat, long-range jets being developed at a cost of around €10bn. Airbus UK currently designs and builds the wings for all Airbus aircraft and is the company’s centre of excellence for wing development. But while the UK will remain the centre for the design and engineering of Airbus wings, the government had hoped to secure at least the same share of the most complex and challenging component manufacturing in composites. Bernie Hamilton, national aerospace officer for Amicus, the UK engineering union, said relocation of the components manufacturing outside the UK would be “a devastating blow” for Airbus UK in Filton. Airbus UK represents the core of the UK civil aerospace industry employing 13,000 people. (Source: FT.com)
Comment: This statement comes as no surprise to BATTLESPACE as it follows strong lobbying by Germany and Spain to win this work. Spain looks to be the front runner with considerable composite technology at the expense of UK Plants.

26 Jan 07. Britain has warned EADS, the aerospace and defence company, that it is in danger of losing out on military contracts worth billions of pounds if the UK is not awarded crucial wing component work on the next generation of Airbus passenger jets. EADS, the Franco-German parent of Airbus, is eager for more defence work in the UK, as it looks to end its over-reliance on the highly cyclical commercial aircraft market. But Lord Drayson, the minister in charge of the UK’s £16bn yearly military equipment budget, has told the company that any decision to abandon a planned £100m investment in a new wing components facility at Filton, near Bristol, in favour of Spain or Germany, could bring commercial reprisals. The UK Ministry of Defence said it would not comment on private discussions or meetings involving the minister, but did not dispute comments attributed to him by Amicus, the trade union. According to Amicus, Lord Drayson told union members this week that if “the company proceeds to move the work from the Filton plant to Germany and Spain the government would have no alternative but to review its defence procurement contracts with the company”. EADS said it was in “close, ongoing and constructive discussions with the government regarding this matter”. A

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