Farnborough air show could pay off for Washington

By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer

EVERETT — Few big announcements are likely to come out of the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom next month, but the biennial aerospace industry gathering could mean big things for Washington companies.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is leading a trade delegation with about 25 people from government and business to the air show, which runs July 14-20.

Several high-level meetings are planned during Farnborough between Inslee and CEOs of aerospace companies that are “seriously considering or close to making decisions about investments here,” said Alex Pietsch, the governor’s aerospace industry adviser.

He said announcements about companies expanding into Washington could come during the air show and, if not, at least in following months.

Some delegation members, including Pietsch and Mary Kaye Bredeson, director of Everett-based Composites Washington, are going there early for a visit to the National Composites Centre in Bristol, England.

Pietsch, Bredeson and the others are among those working to establish a composites material manufacturing research center — possibly in Everett — to support advanced manufacturing in Washington.

Inslee is stopping in Helsinki, Finland, after the air show, when he will meet with government officials and representatives of the Nordic Council of Ministers. He’ll also visit Nokia, whose mobile devices and services business was acquired by Microsoft in April, and with companies interested in investment opportunities in Washington.

Many aerospace suppliers will be looking for opportunities to join the supply chain for the Boeing Co.’s new 777X jetliner.

The airplane maker could announce new orders, but don’t expect any big product news. The company unveiled the 777X last November at the Dubai Air Show.

“I think Jim McNerney is more focused on careful management of Boeing’s programs right now,” said Michel Merluzeau, an industry analyst with Kirkland-based G2 Solutions.

Many industry watchers had thought Boeing’s rival, Airbus Group, could announce that it is overhauling the wide-body A330 jetliner with new engines. The result, often referred to as the A330neo, for “new engine option,” could challenge Boeing’s 787 market share.

But an Airbus executive told news media in Toulouse, France, this week that a decision on the program might not come in time for Farnborough.

“Airbus has been considering what to do with the A330 for many years,” Merluzeau said.

“It’s not just a technical decision — adding a new engine. It’s a question of where is the market?” he said.

Airlines continue to recover from the 2008 recession and want more airplanes and more fuel-efficient ones, said Tom Captain, a Seattle-based aerospace analyst with Deloitte. “You’re likely to see a continued buying spree by airline customers.”

Customers and airplane makers often wait to announce orders at air shows, but Farnborough usually sees fewer new orders compared to the biennial Paris Air Show, which occurs in odd-numbered years.

Farnborough is “not viewed as being as splashy as Paris,” he said.

Captain expects about 500 airplane orders to be announced between the major producers — Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier — at the air show.

Bombardier had expected to debut one of its CSeries test planes at the air show, but an engine malfunction in late May derailed that plan.

Earlier this week, the Montreal-based company said the program will resume test flights by the end of the month and reaffirmed the plane’s entry-into-service in the second half of 2015, according to news reports.

Despite the program’s delays, the CSeries could be a game changer, because it “addresses point-to-point travel for secondary airports,” Merluzeau said.

The world will have to wait a little longer for its debutante appearance.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

Washington delegation to Farnborough

Jeffrey Crowe, BRPH

Mary Kaye Bredeson, Composites Washington

Ted Sprague, Cowlitz Economic Development Council

Troy McClelland, Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Susan Suess, Economic Development Bureau for Tacoma-Pierce County

Jonathan Smith, Grant County Economic Development Council

Robin Toth, Greater Spokane Incorporated

Charlotte Garrido, Kitsap County Government

John Powers, Kitsap Economic Development Alliance

Tim Thomson, Kitsap Economic Development Alliance

Martha Nichols, Mechatronics

Tom Koetje, Mechatronics

Sean Dwyer, Orion Industries

Bob Uptagrafft, Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance

Denise Dyer, Pierce County Government Economic Development Department

Mark Behrends, Pioneer Human Services

Richard Hanover, Port of Moses Lake

Colleen McAleer, Port of Port Angeles

Jennifer States, Port of Port Angeles

Paul Van Metre, Pro CNC

Noel Murphy, Pro CNC (TruLife)

Ty Ueland, SeaCast

Erich Thompson, Service Steel Aerospace

Frank Nichols, Silicon Forest Electronics

Igor Kwiatkowski, Cablecraft Motion Controls

Source: Governor’s office