What performance properties would you like to see improved in composites materials?
We are quite happy with the materials supplied to us. However, suppliers are constantly trying to improve composite properties. Not much has been done in the past year improvement-wise because material development cycles take a long time. The last major property improvement was the development of a carbon composite with a thermoplastic matrix.
What are other challenges you see?
For such high-tech materials, there is a tight time frame as well as a lack of experience. For example, the Boeing 787 now has major structures made out of composites but we have relatively little experience with large composite structures. The 787 has helped users become more aware of composites, which helps give them a positive view of the product as they learn more about it and become familiar with using it.
What will help the aerospace industry climb out of the economic slump?
2010 is still not going to be an easy year, but we think that has to do with the fact that is an industry with long cycles. Recovery will take time. We believe 2011 will be the year when things look much better.
How will the aerospace industry change in the next five years?
We see changes that will adapt to the growing emphasis on the environment and an increased demand for lightweight structures, thus a higher demand for composites.
What are the current differences between the European and North American markets?
The main difference and problem is the euro and the dollar. It is hard having a euro-based currency when most aero-structures are sold in dollars.
What qualifications do you look for in a supply chain partner?
More and more we look for companies that offer more than just a bill to print. We want companies that have strong engineering capabilities. We are not looking for companies just to outsource by our own design standards, but rather a company that has strong engineering capabilities that can take over a chunk of work.