LONDON A lobby group representing Europe's defence and aerospace industries has urged national governments to help with more investment in R&D and provide loans for struggling suppliers and contractors, but stressed it does not need bailing out, like some oher sectors.
They also warned that Europe's flagship aerospace research program Clean Sky" is at risk of collapsing owing to onerous European Union rules.
"Our sector is not asking for any government bailout," Allan Cook, the president of the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association (ASD) and chief executive officer of Cobham plc (Winborne, England) said at an event in Brussels organized by the defence and aerospace industry group. "We do need EU institutions and national governments across Europe to increase investment in research", added Cook.
He stressed the the aerospace and defence industries are solid and innovative , well equipped to weather the current economic turmoil and, beyond that, to significantly contribute to the economic recovery of the continent.
Both Cook and Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive and the head of the German aerospace industry body BDLI, want governments to boost funding, including export credit guarantees, for airlines to buy new planes.
Enders, who is struggling to overcome delays to Airbus's A400M military transporter and to A380 superjumbo orders, said that Ė unlike in previous cyclical downturns Ė aircraft leasing companies had retreated to the sidelines.
Enders attacked the European commission for causing a year-long delay to the "Clean Sky" project to cut aircraft noise by half and emissions of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide by 50 to 80 percent respectively within seven years. The project complements aviation's planned inclusion within the EU emissions trading scheme to cut greenhouse gases but, Enders said, without it airlines already reeling from the crisis would be hammered.
Cook added: "The Americans don't have to go through this level of bureaucracy to see investments in their industry."
Amid mounting fears that Airbus's arch-rival Boeing was stealing a march on "clean" fuels with White House and Pentagon support, Enders said "there is no time to lose" in delivering the Euros 1.6bn (£1.4bn) project.
The executives warned that the program is stuck in the starting blocks because the European Commission has been slow to release its share of funding. "I see the clear and present danger that the program will fail to produce the needed results on time and that industry will very soon be obliged to redirect its funds towards other national or company technology initiatives," said Enders.
The EC is responsible for half of Clean Sky costs, with the industry the rest.
EU aerospace and defence firms insist that they are investing at record levels in R&D, with Cook saying Cobham had boosted its spending by 25 percent in the past four years. But, as the financial squeeze tightens, they want governments to provide more long-term investment in innovation.