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Leading Edge: A united front

The Canadian Aerospace industry has a rich tradition of developing some of the most innovative and technologically advanced products in the world.

January 7, 2011  By Stacy Bradshaw

The Canadian Aerospace industry has a rich tradition of developing some of the most innovative and technologically advanced products in the world.

From the early successes of the Silver Dart, to the workhorse Douglas DC-3 to the development of the Avro Arrow, to Bombardier’s extensive worldwide fingerprint, Canadian ingenuity over the past century has led to the development of many game-changing products.

But as Claude Lajeunesse, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), notes in his column on the future of the industry (see “A competitive advantage,” pg. 62), to ensure Canada remains one of the world’s leading players on the world stage it will take much more than “marvelling at our impressive past.”

As Lajeunesse aptly points out, it will take a steadfast commitment to research and development, continued development of green technologies, and a dedicated push to recruit and educate the next generation of aviation professionals for Canada to remain an influential player on the world stage.


Financial commitment from top levels of government, as well as a united front on behalf of the sometimes-fragmented aviation industry associations, is also imperative to ensure Canadian interests are protected. Two notable examples in late 2010 reveal positive signs on both fronts.
Announced in December, the federal government’s $300 million repayable contribution to Pratt & Whitney Canada for a five-year $1 billion R&D project to build new generations of high-performance engines illustrates the kind of financial support needed going forward.

With the development of the new engines, P&WC is expected to recruit more than 200 engineers, and at the grassroots level, continue collaboration with leading universities on R&D initiatives across the country. The project also enables P&WC to develop advanced propulsion technologies for improved environmental performance, including reduced fuel consumption, lower emissions and less noise.

The unwavering support by aviation associations and manufacturers in protecting Canada’s involvement in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike fighter program amidst continued resistance from federal opposition parties also illustrates the type of forward-thinking needed to keep Canada thriving as an aerospace leader.

Canada has been participating with nine other countries in the F-35 program since 1997 and has contributed some US$150 million over the past decade to its development. The proposed purchase of 65 F-35 fighters to replace the current CF-18 fleet would not only provide the Canadian Forces with state-of-the-art aircraft, but would be a significant boon to countless Canadian companies for years to come.

To date, more than 50 contracts worth $320 million are already in place with Canadian firms, and as Lajeunesse noted in late 2010: “to say that by cancelling the current process and starting from scratch would somehow result in a greater number of jobs for our industry and without penalties is not only a stretch but completely misleading.”

This steadfast commitment to highlighting the benefits of the F-35 project is precisely the type of leadership needed to protect current and future Canadian aerospace initiatives.

With the retirement of an aging workforce looming, recruitment, education and training are also key building blocks for future success. Industry associations, colleges, universities, and flight schools are well aware of this problem and have been proactive in seeking ways to develop worthwhile career paths for students seeking employment in the aviation sector.

At Wings, we’ve followed suit with the development of our second annual Careers in Aviation supplement, a special guide that provides young Canadians a glimpse into the many exciting opportunities a career in aviation can provide. Written by James Careless, the supplement was delivered to more than 3,000 high school guidance counsellors across the country in January.

Hopefully, by developing products like this – and continuing to highlight the many impressive contributions of those in this dynamic industry – we can help fuel the passion for future innovative discoveries . . . and help Canada stay on the cutting edge of aerospace innovation.

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