Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Optimism in tough times

In my last blog I discussed how the market for military avionics appears to be steady, but I was a bit surprised by the enthusiastic outlook for the global avionics market shown by attendees and exhibitors at last week's Avionics conference and exhibition that we put on in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

One exhibitor, Chip Downing of Wind River Systems, told me the avionics market is still quite strong, but the current economic climate might change especially on the commercial side, but not so much in the military market. He added that he still sees 2009 as a year of growth, but maybe not as strong as past years.

"The avionics market is up quite a bit," Doug Patterson of Aitech Defense Systems told me at the show. He said there is a strong trend in military and commercial applications to have more automation, taking the man out of the loop, which bodes well for avionics suppliers as they move toward next-generation avionics upgrades and the new air traffic management systems.

Officials from Seaweed Systems say they are seeing quite a lot of avionics business right now, and "haven't seen a downturn at all." Folks at Presagis echoed that, saying they see continued growth for themselves and their partners.

Esterline and Ruag Aerospace officials added that their military avionics business is steady and that they are developing long-term programs with key civil and commercial aerospace customers.

The keynote, Donald Ward, created some positive buzz of his own in discussing the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA's) efforts toward a next-generation air traffic management system -- or NextGEN. Ward, the FAA's Air Traffic Operations representative to Europe, said the FAA is looking to work more with industry and focus on business models that work.

The main thrust of his speech was urging the U.S. and Europe -- industry and government -- to work together to harmonize NextGEN and SESAR (Single European
Sky ATM Research) technologies. Ward said it is essential to have commonality between the two systems because the technology is too complicated to try to develop independently.

He added that it is also critical to involve the military each step of the way or "there will be major problems down the road."

Aside from Ward's keynote address the most popular session was the one we had on electronic flight bags and how they will be an instrumental tool in dealing with runway incursions.

Hope you got to see them.

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