Many Welsh executives in the industry will be heading to Hamburg this month for the Aircraft Interiors Expo (April 10th -12th) a major aircraft trade show focussing on the purchase of cabin interiors, in-flight entertainment, connectivity, passenger experience and passenger services.
So, who are the Welsh companies attending the industry event and what are they doing to make air travel a more comfortable, luxurious and safe experience?
Peter Gunson is Operations Director at PPA Group in Connah’s Quay, who specialise in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of interiors, transparencies and soft furnishings for VIP, business, commercial and military aircraft.
Peter set up the company with his business partner more than 20 years ago. Both were ex-Airbus employees and spotted an opportunity when the company decided to sub-contract a major department - PPA Group was conceived and able to fill the gap. As well as Airbus, the company now supplies BAE Systems, Bentley, and Raytheon amongst others with 22 highly-skilled employees in North Wales.
Speaking about the Hamburg Expo, Peter said: “This is the kind of event that is really important for us to attend. We work in an international industry and it’s an opportunity to tell the world about what we do.
“We supply cockpit cabin windows, windshields, cabin windows, portholes, wing tip and light lenses as well as vacuum form composites and spray booth services.
“Of course, there have been challenges over the years too in the aerospace industry, particularly in the wake of 9/11 and the 2007/2008 financial crash. Brexit remains something the industry is cautious about of course and as a business we are always up against the challenges of costings.
“However, our philosophy has always been to provide high-quality, competitively priced services with a fast turnaround and that’s something that still stands today and an ethos our customers need and expect. Maintaining this has helped us to weather storms and maintain customer loyalty over the years.”
And it’s not just PPA Group making a mark on the aircraft interiors business; across Wales there are several manufacturers and businesses in the supply chain.
Another aviation supply business with a base in Wales is Cwmbran-based Safran. The company places itself as a leader in the design, development, certification and support of premium aircraft seating, cabin furniture, monuments, bar and stowage units, and supplies the world’s leading airlines from its base in Llantarnam.
Global aerospace business, STG Aerospace also has a base in Cwmbran, where it chose to open its Innovation and Engineering Centre, an extensive R&D facility that includes state of the art lighting laboratories and simulations of 737 and A320 aircraft. The centre is equipped with a goniophotometer, used for measuring the size, space and shape that lighting takes up, and an integrating sphere which is used to analyse colour. The centre also has two sections of aircraft, a Boeing and an Airbus, used to visualise how new products will work when in service, as well as a chemistry laboratory and a flammability laboratory.
In Pembroke Dock, United Aerospace manufacture carbon and glass fibre composite components for a variety of industries including aircraft interiors as well as defence, automotive and medical customers, with Safran one of their major customers.
Rebel Aero, in Milford Haven, is shaking up the aircraft seating industry with its designs. They describe a brand-new approach to the whole concept of passenger space, safety and comfort while offering the airlines multiple advantages from quicker boarding and lower maintenance to increased style and function.
With so many global players in the aerospace industry benefitting from the expertise and opportunities available in Wales, it seems likely that the sector will continue to take off.
*Aerospace Wales/Stats Wales (2016)