Aerospace picks up the pace

January 22, 1997

Despite consolidation, there is considerable growth on the horizon in the commercial airplane business--and that means more work for design engineers.

That's among the lessons from a special worldwide fact-finding tour completed by Ken Blakely, vice president and manager of The MacNeal-Schwendler Corp.'s aerospace business unit. Being the forward-looking company that it is, MSC believes in the importance of such fact-finding tours of companies in its key market areas. On this trip, Blakely visited 18 aerospace companies for the developer of engineering analysis software--four each in China and Korea, two each in Singapore, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and one each in Indonesia and France. His two conclusions: There's a flurry of activity in big projects, and there's a burgeoning indigenous market for regional airplanes.

Among his specific findings:

- China, Indonesia, and Korea are each building 100-seat jets.

- Additionally, there are some jumbo-jet projects on tap, such as the Airbus A3XX.

- These and other projects hold opportunities for multi-national companies. For example, IPTN, the Indonesian Aerospace Company, will go outside the country's boundaries for about 30% of the components it needs. Likewise, China will work with five European companies and Singapore Technologies Inc. to build its plane.

- U.S.-designed planes are increasingly being assembled in the Asia Pacific region.

- There's growing interest in Asia in technology pioneered by Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus. "Everywhere I went, engineers asked me what these companies were doing and what engineering tools they are using," Blakely says.

He sees in this interest and activity many opportunities for U.S. companies. For example, those who design and build propulsion systems should prosper--the U.S. and Europe will continue to be the sources for that technology. Companies that supply landing-gear hydraulics will do well too, as will those that supply materials and fastening systems.

Closer to MSC's heart, there is also plenty of opportunity for those companies that can provide analysis solutions. "The companies I visited are moving toward simulation-based design--and they want to simulate all kinds of phenomena," he says.

"I'm excited about the flurry of activity I saw overseas," Blakely says. So too should be design engineers, whose talents, as always, are the keys to success.

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