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Aviation boom to boost Ohio

Ohio stands to benefit greatly as the number of jet planes around the world doubles in the next 20 years, aviation industry leaders and area observers said.

European plane maker Airbus said this week that air traffic will grow 4.7 percent percent annually. That will require 29,220 new passenger and freighter aircraft to be built through 2032, of which 10,400 will replace existing planes with more efficient ones.

The forces driving the growth in aircraft include economic growth, a larger global middle class, migration and tourism, Airbus said.

Rival Boeing Co. made a similar projection in June, saying 35,280 new planes will be needed by 2032, valued at $4.8 trillion.

That kind of demand could fuel an economic boom in Ohio because few states are as strongly positioned to supply airplane components, according to state and industry advocates.

Ohio is Airbus’s largest supplier among the 50 states, producing $5.1 billion in Airbus parts annually, said Lisa Novelli, executive director of the National Composites Center (NCC) in Kettering. She said 45 percent of all Airbus parts are procured from U.S. suppliers.

Ohio also is the No. 2 U.S. supplier state to Boeing and the No. 3 suppler state to Northrop Grumman, while Lockheed is “building a presence in Ohio,” according to the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Council.

The NCC has two key agreements with Airbus: To research new materials for airplanes of the future and to find and organize top-tier Airbus suppliers not just in Ohio but across the country.

“It’s significant news for Ohio and the U.S.,” Novelli said. “That goes in line with their (Airbus’) announcement that they want to increase their commodity spending.”

“It positions Ohio to be a prime supplier,” said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, executive vice president, aerospace and defense, with the Dayton Development Coalition.

The industry employed at least 100,000 Ohioans, Gary Conley, president of TechSolve, the Cincinnati-based Edison Technology Center, said in 2011.

Two years later, “It’s actually increased,” said Traci Spencer, program development manager for TechSolve, said of industry employment statewide. “It is safe to say that the state of Ohio actually employs over 130,000” workers in aerospace, Spencer said.

With Airbus making its plane production announcement, she expects Ohio to “reap the benefits.”

Spencer helps manages Ohio state exhibits at air shows in Paris and Farnborough in England. Twenty-three states were represented at the Paris show this year, and Ohio was among them. There’s an increasing amount of business that happens at international shows, and Ohio is increasingly well known in aerospace circles, she said.

The anticipated demand for new aircraft is a “huge opportunity for growth among our suppliers worldwide, including those in Ohio,” said David Williams, Airbus Americas’ vice president of procurement in a statement to this newspaper. “Continual growth in our industry means Ohio can rise to the challenge, and prove it is the best by investing in advanced technologies to optimize our supply chain.”

Southwest Ohio is home to significant pockets of jet plane-related employment. Major players in the area include GE Aviation, based in Evendale, and UTC Aerospace Systems, which has a aircraft brake and wheel plant in Troy. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the hub of Air Force logistics and research efforts, also draws contractors such as Northrop Grumman and SAIC.

“It is great news for this area, and in alignment with our forecasts and order book,” Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE Aviation, said in email.

The current backlog for engines produced by West Chester Twp.-based CFM International, a joint venture of GE and Snecma of France, stands at 10,000 engines, Kennedy said.

“Those are engines already on the order book for the next several years,” he added. “That’s both the current model (CFM56) and the new model under development – the LEAP engine.”

GE Aviation has 1,400 employees in the area. Employees have recently started moving into GE Aviation’s new $51 million Electrical Power Research Lab on the University of Dayton campus at 111 River Park Drive.

Of the roughly 30,000 planes to be built over the next 20 years, about 20,000 will be single-aisle jets, which is CFM’s focus, said CFM spokeswoman Jamie Jewell. That means about 40,000 engines at an estimated value of $500 billion, Jewell said.

Airbus attributes expected growth to demand from emerging markets, especially China.

“The growth is certainly coming from emerging markets, but we will also see the start of airlines in mature markets begin to replace aging fleets,” Jewell said.

Some examples from both markets include AirAsia and Lion Air in emerging markets, as well as Southwest and American Airlines looking to replace older jets, she said.

Novelli said Ohio can’t simply assume that its suppliers will do well with any expansion in plane production. Ohio suppliers must be efficient and competitive, she said.

“You can’t be arrogant and assume Ohio just doubles (its business with Airbus) because we’re good guys,” she said.

But Ohio aerospace advocates are optimistic.

“It’s just a really exciting time, especially with Airbus making that statement,” Spencer said.

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