The Aerospace Industry is dominated by two major companies: Boeing and Airbus, (with McDonnell Douglas being swallowed up by the manufacturer of 747’s in 1997). However buying McDonnell Douglas didn’t take out the competition – Europe’s Airbus Industries has been steadily gaining market share in recent years and now ranks as the number one aircraft manufacturer in the world. Other company’s manufacture aircraft parts, but nearly half of all aerospace dollars comes from the defence market.

Locally the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) is a Department of Trade and Industry (dti) initiative aimed at repositioning the South African Aerospace Industry as a future growth industry. The initiative was borne of a bilateral agreement between the CSIR and the dti to, through collective leadership, upgrade the South African Aerospace Industry and position it as an integrated part of global supply chains. This is aligned to the dti’s vision for growing South Africa’s high value industry sectors in support of government’s Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) strategy.

The AISI strategy consists of six programmes, including coordination, promotion and awareness, which are aimed at the small business sector, as well as technology advancement and supply chain development.

The purpose of the latter, which has already yielded significant results, is to position the local aerospace industry in global markets as a major supplier in this sector. This includes first tier primary, component and low tier suppliers as part of the supply chain.

Initiatives such as the national industrial participation programme have already resulted in companies such as Aerosud, which used to participate as a second and third tier supplier to Airbus, now being recognised as a first tier supplier. “These are just the first steps towards the desired outcomes of market leadership and continuous upgrading of the South African Aerospace Industry in line with global trends” says Francois Denner, Chairman of the AISI.