Brighter outlook for aerospace sector but demand for new planes remains volatile

Britain’s aerospace and aviation sectors are continuing to reel from the impact of the pandemic, though there are early signs of a recovery, industry bosses said today.

The industry has seen continued suppressed demand for aircraft due to the pandemic and international travel restrictions. Picture: John Devlin
The industry has seen continued suppressed demand for aircraft due to the pandemic and international travel restrictions. Picture: John Devlin

The assessment came as new figures for global aircraft orders and deliveries for July showed a mixed picture.

Customers ordered 33 aircraft – 21 single-aisle and 12 widebody – while year-to-date deliveries for 2021 are now 66 per cent ahead of this time in 2020, at 528.

There were 75 aircraft delivered last month, a 42 per cent increase on July 2020.

Industry leaders noted that the recovery in orders and deliveries remained volatile month to month, making it difficult to precisely forecast the pace of recovery.

However, there are welcome signs of potential recovery supported by flight data showing UK flight numbers now around 50 per cent below 2019 figures, and Europe-wide numbers just under 30 per cent below 2019, pre-pandemic volumes.

The backlog of aircraft orders is said to remain “substantial” at 12,800 aircraft but has fallen from the pre-crisis peak of more than 14,000. The backlog represents several years’ worth of work and significant value to UK aerospace manufacturing estimated to be £180 billion at current input levels.

Kevin Craven, chief executive of ADS, the UK trade organisation representing the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, said: “The aerospace and aviation sectors continue to feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, though industry production rates and slowly rising flight numbers are showing welcome signs of potential recovery.

“However, deliveries and orders for widebody aircraft remain significantly supressed and despite welcome UK government updates to green lists, changes in quarantine rules for double vaccinated travellers from the EU, US and UK there is still more to be done.

“To continue to nurture the UK and international aerospace and aviation recovery there is a need for continued international cooperation and coordination to restore flights and operations particularly on the vital transatlantic routes to pre-crisis levels.”

Index of production figures for June, released this month by the Office for National Statistics, showed UK aerospace manufacturing output still 37.7 per cent smaller than in February 2020.

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