Guest post for SC Aerospace by Jason Marlin, President, Champion Aerospace, LLC
A skilled workforce is the backbone of the aerospace industry. The industry’s highly technical nature, paired with the rapid growth in demand for air travel, a record number of aircraft in the backlog and the fact that it’s growing faster than underlying GDP, requires skilled, experienced workers, most of whom are currently Baby Boomers. Whether it’s component and system manufacturing, aircraft maintenance technicians or pilots, the demand for highly skilled workers will only continue to grow as the current workforce reaches retirement.
As the number of retirees outpaces millennials preparing to fill these roles, the aerospace industry faces a significant risk – the actual workforce will decline until we address the issue and find a solution.
This is a challenge we are currently facing at Champion Aerospace. Our highly skilled manufacturing workforce has an average tenure of nearly 20 years. These years of expertise are an asset for our business, but also a double-edged sword as they will begin to retire in the next five to 10 years.
At Champion Aerospace, we’re working to minimize this risk in two ways.
First, we’ve partnered with local colleges and technical schools like Clemson University, Greenville Technical College and Tri-County Technical College to establish co-op programs in product engineering, manufacturing engineering, electronics assembly and machining. These programs are a win-win because we’re able to develop and evaluate the next generation of talent while helping students gain real-world aerospace manufacturing experience.
The second way we’re addressing the potential risk of retirees outpacing new talent is by continuing to invest in technology and automation. In other areas of the industry, autonomous and partly autonomous technology in commercial aircraft is being used to alleviate issues like the pilot shortage in coming years. Similar technology, namely robotics and automation, can play a similar role in the manufacturing process. Technology is improving the quality, consistency and productivity of manufacturing highly-engineered aerospace components, which has historically been a challenge due to the high mix, low volume present in aerospace manufacturing. The declining cost of today’s automation technology coupled with the ease of programming equipment for multiple tasks or operations is ameliorating this issue – a necessity given the forecasted addition of more than 10,000 net new aircraft to the global airline fleet over the next 10 years.
Tomorrow’s workforce needs a more evolved skill set; they must be more technically savvy with electronics, programming, troubleshooting and the repair of automation and robotics equipment. The rapid evolution of technology creates a constant need for training and education like that offered by the South Carolina Technical College System. It’s critical that college and technical schools continue to focus on keeping curricula current as technology rapidly advances within the aerospace industry. It’s likewise critical that industry leaders continue to work with schools and programs in their area to ensure that all needs are being met and that programs continue to be valuable to building our workforces.
Greenville, SC—Champion Aerospace, a leading manufacturer of aerospace ignition and power systems, donated $50,000 to Greenville Technical College in October in order to expand the facility’s Aerospace Maintenance Technology program.
Per Ross Hartney, Champion Aerospace’s business unit manager, “This monetary gift signals and solidifies Champion’s continued partnership and support to Greenville Technical College and the AMT Program’s mission to provide a highly skilled and ready workforce to support the ever-changing, challenging and exciting aerospace industry. The new facility provides an incredible capability and capacity upgrade that will drive both students and faculty to come to work each day with great pride and enthusiasm. Champion Aerospace is proud to support the AMT program at Greenville Tech.”
Champion has previously supported the AMT program with other gifts, including an airplane engine, and this current gift will be recognized with the naming of a classroom in honor of Champion Aerospace at the new facility in the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center in Greenville. In this space, shared with the South Carolina Army National Guard, students in the Greenville Tech AMT program will learn aerospace industry skills, including the maintenance of ignition and power structures in airplanes.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to 10 South Carolina colleges for the Materials Assembly and Design Excellent in SC program (MADE in SC), a multidisciplinary program highlighting advanced materials technology industry in South Carolina.
Recipients of the grant include researchers from USC, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, Furman University, USC Beaufort, Winthrop University, S.C. State University, Claflin University and Florence-Darlington Technical College.
Given by the NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR) initiative the grant is designed to encourage STEM research at the collegiate level and foster economic development—and renewable after five years.
The grant will fund the hiring of seventeen new researchers over the length of the grant at five universities; planned investment in graduate and undergraduate programs, community outreach; and the development of new facilities. It will allow the South Carolina colleges the opportunity to fund materials research and develop new technologies for industrial and consumer applications, including aerospace and medical technology
This post contains excerpts from The State.
Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and manager of Boeing South Carolina, received the 2017 Achievement Award on Oct. 19 at the Women in Aerospace’s annual awards ceremony.
Robinson-Berry, a thirty-year veteran of Boeing, dedicates herself to promoting science, technology, education and math training in local communities and in the organization, drawing from her experiences as a young student when she was discouraged from her own studies—being told, in her words, that math and engineering were “for boys.” Following her education at California State Polytechnic Institute, Robinson-Berry took a position at McDonnell Douglas and stayed with Boeing following the 1996 merger between the two corporations. In 2016, Robinson-Berry took over the duty of overseeing the Dreamliner 787 program at Boeing’s North Charleston facility.
Shelli Brunswick, chairperson of Women in Aerospace, says of Robinson-Berry, ”Joan is a true leader for aerospace education, and she is especially tenacious when advocating for young women in this industry.”
This post includes excerpts from Boeing’s press release and Charleston Regional Business Report’s 2016 interview with Robinson-Berry.
SC Aerospace hosted its fall networking meeting last Monday, Oct. 9, at CU-ICAR in Greenville in conjunction with the Composites Suppliers Meeting and focused on composite applications for the aerospace and automotive industries. SC Automotive Council members also participated, as a partnership between the two organizations.
Susie Shannon, president and CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, gave an overview of SC Aerospace and the work the initiative has done and is continuing to do in connecting and marketing South Carolina’s aerospace cluster.
Industry leaders presented and led discussions focused on aerospace and automotive applications for composite materials. Tom Haulik of Hexcel Corporation spoke about the global scale of composite technology, particularly in how it intersects with defense needs, military applications, energy applications, and aerospace technologies. He walked attendees through the architecture and composition of a consumer aircraft and how composites can minimize weight and increase stability.
Boeing’s Doug French spoke about upcoming changes to the 787 lineup and increased production from the Boeing campus in Charleston, including their goal to bolster the production from twelve to fourteen planes a month.
Mark Janney of Carbon Conversions, this quarter’s spotlight company, spoke about the history of the company and the technology used to recycle cast-off and end-of-life carbon fiber materials and textiles. Following individual presentations, Michel van Tooren led a panel discussion with Don Myers of Toray and Mike Kinsella of Toho Tenax, who shared their experiences working in South Carolina’s aerospace cluster.
According to PwC’s latest aerospace manufacturing attractiveness rankings report, South Carolina’s relatively low set-up costs and generous tax policies make it a business-friendly location for aerospace companies. South Carolina’s more than 400 aerospace companies are responsible for 100,000 jobs and a $19 billion statewide economic impact.
The United States ranks first worldwide for the aerospace industry with more than 1,710 aircraft, engine and parts manufacturers calling it home and a total annual revenue of $212 billion.
The Southeast region as a whole ranks high in the study, with Georgia listed as the most attractive state and North Carolina at number four. Washington state, home of Boeing’s only major production facilities outside of South Carolina, fell out of the top ten to number 16.
The report, which ranks the top countries and states based on their attractiveness to aerospace companies, incorporates data that includes cost, labor, infrastructure, industry, economy, and geopolitical risk (irrelevant and uncounted for state-level calculations) to determine state ranking. Please click here for the complete 2017 aerospace manufacturing attractiveness rankings, including methodology and calculations.
For South Carolina specific reports and figures, please visit our research page.
TIGHITCO Aerostructures Vice President and General Manager Ian Williams was named chairman of SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017 at the fourth annual South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo in Columbia.
Williams succeeds Ranger Aerospace CEO Steve Townes, who has served as chairman since the Advisory Board’s inception in 2013. Townes will continue to serve as a member of SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board.
“I am honored to welcome Ian as SC Aerospace’s new chairman,” Townes said. “It has been a pleasure to serve with him thus far and I look forward to the unique perspective and ideas he will bring to the future of SC Aerospace.”
Williams has shared his aerospace expertise and insight into the industry as a member of SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board. He brings 30 years of experience in both the United States and Europe to his tenure as chairman. Williams began his aerospace career in 1987 as an airframe mechanic and has served in upper management roles for more than 15 years.
In addition to Williams’ new role, three other aerospace leaders have been added to SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board this year. They are:
Farmer will replace Don Erickson of Lockheed Martin, who will be stepping down from his role on SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board in September. Myers and van Tooren bring expertise in advanced materials and composite manufacturing.
“Our advisory board is a key factor in the success of SC Aerospace,” said SC Aerospace Director Adrianne Beasley. “Their perspectives from across the industry allow us to stay current on the opportunities and issues facing South Carolina’s aerospace cluster. I look forward to working with Ian to continue the impressive growth of aerospace in South Carolina.”
“Understanding the ins and outs of the industry clusters we manage is important to our work at the Council,” said Council President and CEO Susie Shannon. “Bringing together industry leaders and experts who know the aerospace landscape in South Carolina is incredibly valuable to helping us continue to foster growth and keep South Carolina globally competitive.”
The SC Aerospace Advisory Board is comprised of private-sector industry leaders representing aerospace-related firms. The Advisory Board helps to guide the initiative in its goals of managing, marketing and connecting South Carolina’s aerospace cluster, as well as understanding the challenges and opportunities within the cluster.
For bios of all of SC Aerospace’s Advisory Board members, please click here.
Boeing is making progress in deciding whether or not to pursue a middle-of-the-market commercial aircraft and its North Charleston site may be just the place for it.
According to Boeing’s Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth, “if you are going to address that market, you need a new airplane” to close the gap between narrow-body jets and long-haul aircraft.
In addition to closing the gap between body styles, the proposed aircraft, which is midway between the single-aisle 737 and the twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, would help Boeing compete against Airbus’ A321neo, which was available to consumers beginning April 2017. The proposed design will potentially employ carbon fiber composite materials to shape the fuselage with an elliptical outline, rather than the circular shape of airplanes made with traditional materials, to reduce drag and wind resistance, thus creating a more fuel-efficient plane. The aircraft would be capable of carrying between 220 and 270 passengers at distances of 3,000-5,000 nautical miles.
Industry analysts project that Boeing could begin construction on the plane as early as 2020 and enter service by 2025.
While the project is still in its earliest phases, Boeing’s North Charleston facility could certainly be the right spot for production of this new airplane. North Charleston is one of Boeing’s two final-production facilities, and experts believe that Boeing should be considering which location – North Charleston or Everett, Wash., will provide the best value on what will likely be an expensive new program to keep costs at bay.
Hilton Head Airport is set to receive a $7.3 million grant from the FAA as part of its Airport Improvement Program. The grant will be used to extend their runway to 5,000 feet.
According to James Stephens, executive director of the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, the extension is necessary to not only retain the current airline service at Hilton Head Airport, but to enhance the ability to recruit new air carriers and increase the number of destinations.
“Airline business models have been changing toward the utilization of larger aircraft with greater passenger loading and shorter runway airports like Hilton Head cannot support the larger aircraft,” Stephens said. “This extension is critical for future economic development efforts and continued tourism income.”
This grant is part of a larger $167.6 million award the FAA is distributing to 64 airports in 30 states. To date, the FAA said the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced more than 1,300 new grants to nearly 1,200 airports, worth about $2 billion total. The grants fund airport infrastructure projects and airports are entitled to a certain amount of funding based on passenger volume.
This post contains excerpts from articles published by Aviation Today.