Dave drops in for a jumbo tour while GKN creates jobs
FOUR trainee engineers from Bristol got to meet David Cameron as the Farnborough Air show got off to a flying start yesterday.
And there was good news for the city as one of the biggest employers announced it was creating 100 new jobs.
The Prime Minister was the surprise guest at the aviation sector's biggest get-together of the year and after taking a tour of two airplanes he took time to meet the Filton-based graduates.
The air show is seen as the premier event in the aviation industry's calendar and is normally marked by billions of pounds worth of deals.
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And although the show got off to a slow start in terms of announcements the unexpected visit by Mr Cameron added a touch of excitement and glamour to the proceedings.
Senior management from Airbus gave the Prime Minister a guided tour of an A380, the world's largest commercial aircraft, and an A400M military transporter.
He then went on to chat to Adam Fallon, Mary Eranackal, Arsha Etebar and William Furmedge. All four said they were delighted to get to meet the leader of the country in person.
Adam Fallon said: "We were told this was going to a happen a week ago but it was still a bit of surprise when we got to meet him in person and chat to him.
"He asked what we were working on at Filton and he was really charming. It did feel like an honour and a privilege to speak to the Prime Minister in person."
Airbus employs around 4,000 at its South Gloucestershire factory and is one of the key employers in the Bristol area.
The aviation sector is one of the few sectors to have not been badly affected by the recession and the firm enjoyed a record year last year.
However, the signs are that the next 12 months could see slower sales.
But the Prime Minister is still keen to stress the importance of the industry to the British economy.
He announced a £50-million defence contract which will see a full flight simulator for the Airbus A400M built at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The wings for the military plane, which has been named the Atlas, are built at Filton along with the landing gear.
The MoD has ordered 22 of the A400Ms to replace the aging fleet of C-130 Hercules, with the first delivery expected in 2014.
Mr Cameron also announced £3 million of government funding for 500 degree-level places in aerospace engineering over the next three years.
GKN, which works alongside Airbus at Filton, and employs around 3,000 staff at its factory was also at the air show.
The firm revealed it is opening a new engineering centre in South Gloucestershire which will employ 100 staff.
The Filton engineering centre will focus on the design and manufacture of wings. Over 50 permanent staff are already in place at the Filton centre and a recruitment programme is under way to fill the remaining posts.
Rich Oldfield, technical director, GKN Aerospace, said: "Bristol is now established as the heart of our global wing structures manufacturing activity.
"With the National Composites Centre close by and strong links into local academic research programmes, this is the ideal base for developing our engineering capability. This move marks an important stage in the global re-shaping of engineering at GKN Aerospace, helping us maintain and extend the technology leads we have established across our businesses. Our intention is to continue to grow the design-and-build capability based at each of our engineering centres in the coming years. "
Speaking at Farnborough, Mr Cameron said: "In a hugely difficult time in the global economy UK aerospace is, quite simply, flying – employing more than 100,000 people, turning over more than £20 billion a year, holding a 17 per cent share of the global market.
"But there can be absolutely no complacency. International competition gets more fierce by the year. The UK has got to fight for every contract and every opportunity."
He said the Government was doing everything possible to get behind UK aerospace, establishing an aerospace growth partnership "to make sure that five, ten, 20 years down the line this industry continues to thrive and grow".
Mr Cameron added: "We're investing in skills, including 500 Masters- level qualifications in aerospace engineering over the next few years. We're pulling every lever we've got to make sure those good, high-skilled jobs come to Britain and stay in Britain.
"The further development of Typhoon that we have been working on with our partners is good for the RAF who need this capability, good for our export customers who want it too and brilliant for the British manufacturers and British workers who are going to benefit.
"From this government you will see nothing less than an unstinting, unrelenting, unflagging commitment to making Britain the best place in the world for aerospace businesses to invest, design, manufacture and export."
Business Secretary Vince Cable added: "The UK aerospace sector is a national success story and to ensure we stay ahead of the game we need to attract the brightest and best to the industry.
"Our new Masters partnership will boost the skills needed for growth. It will enable companies to train up existing employees and get talented new people into the aerospace sector at Masters level."