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On a recent tour of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) with faculty director David Zingg and Centennial College special projects officer Andrew Petrou, I came across a sight that stopped me in my tracks.


March 6, 2013
By Stacy Bradshaw


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On a recent tour of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) with faculty director David Zingg and Centennial College special projects officer Andrew Petrou, I came across a sight that stopped me in my tracks. Several neatly arranged images of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow in various stages of development were meticulously organized on one of the aging facility’s walls, celebrating one of Canada’s most impressive aerospace achievements.

It, of course, immediately brought me back to grade 10 history at Lakeview High School in Thunder Bay, where Mr. Rogers (no joke) extolled the virtues of this incredible aircraft and how it had put Canada on the map as a leader on the global aerospace stage. And while most of the class were probably thinking about what they were having for lunch that day, I was captivated – my interest in aviation solidified.

The Avro project is, of course, heralded in Canadian history and signifies one of the greatest examples of aerospace excellence and collaboration this country has ever produced. It’s a reminder of everything that’s right about Canadian aerospace. Other notable projects – such as the Space Shuttle’s Canadarm, Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft, Pratt & Whitney Canada’s dependable PT6 engine and more – illustrate just what happens when innovation, collaboration and the proper resources unite.

Such achievements have far-reaching tentacles. In addition to the obvious economic benefits, they help fuel the passions of young people, setting them on career paths that will drive them to future success. Why is this so important? Timing is everything and as noted in my piece “Bringing it all together,” pg. 28, an aging aerospace workforce will create a skills abyss in the future that could cripple Canada’s chances of grabbing a piece of the global aerospace pie. And believe me, it’s a good-sized pie. To wit, some $3.2 trillion in new commercial aircraft orders and an additional $661 billion in business aircraft deals will be on the books over the next 20 years.

Fortunately, Ontario’s aerospace companies are moving in a positive direction to take a serious bite out of that pie. With more than 350 firms, 22,000 employees and $7 billion in annual economic output, the province’s aerospace footprint is significant.

Companies such as Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Honeywell, Goodrich Landing Gear (UTC Aerospace Inc.), SAFRAN, Messier-BugattiDowty and hundreds of smaller, dynamic tier-two, tier-three and tier-four companies are making impacts in the manufacturing, research and development, IT, engineering, aircraft modification, MRO and other realms.

More needs to be done, however, to keep the industry vibrant and the development of a Greater Toronto Area cluster like the one that exists in Montreal will reap significant rewards. As David Emerson notes in his recently released “Beyond the Horizon: Canada’s Interests and Future in Aerospace” report, such a development would unite educational establishments with industry to provide greater opportunities for collaboration, strengthen and create a more vertically integrated supply chain and establish a stronger industry profile to solicit government support.

The creation of an aerospace centre of excellence at Downsview airport presents yet another opportunity for the GTA and Ontario aerospace. Home to a rich aviation history, Bombardier and, a 7,000-foot operating runway, and close to both TTC and GO Train access, Downsview is an ideal location as a hub for an Ontario aerospace cluster. Petrou and Zingg, along with several key industry players, are keen drivers of the concept. The Downsview Aerospace Cluster for Innovation and Research (DAIR) team has a clear vision of what’s at stake, and in the months and years ahead, will be working hard to make the project a reality.

The Downsview hub would also be a focal point for fostering the hopes and dreams of youngsters interested in careers in Canadian aerospace. It would leverage the province’s best educational institutions in a partnership to develop innovative new technologies, aid in workforce training and skills development, and participate in supply chain initiatives.

And who knows? Years from now, once UTIAS and others have moved to the Downsview site and reaped the rewards of the cluster concept, perhaps a new gallery of images will showcase other aerospace success stories garnering international headlines.


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