The following is a statement from
Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO John W. Douglass on the
centennial of flight:

Today, the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of powered, controlled
flight — a remarkable achievement that changed the world forever. Orville
and Wilbur Wright’s first venture into the skies in a heavier-than-air-machine
only lasted 12 seconds and covered just 120 feet — but it quickly led to
thousands of advancements that have allowed mankind to cross oceans, break
sound barriers and land on the moon.

As the nation reflects upon the last century of flight and prepares to
embark upon the next century, it is appropriate to consider the challenges
faced by the aerospace industry today that are in some ways quite different
from what the inventors of flight confronted, and in other ways, very much the
same. U.S. aerospace manufacturers find they must prevail against global
competitors who are determined to wrestle market share from the U.S., a
spirited competition not unlike that faced by the Wright brothers for the
title of “inventors of flight.” Yet there are other challenges to the growth
of today’s aerospace industry that the Wrights could have never imagined.

The U.S. aerospace industry has become increasingly fragile. The U.S.
share of the global aerospace marketplace is eroding slowly, but steadily,
declining 20 percentage points since 1985. Federal investment in aerospace
research and development declined 75 percent between 1987 and 2000. Aerospace
employment — at 550,000, is at its lowest level since World War II.

AIA reported recently that the aerospace industry generated $147 billion
in sales for 2003 — this represented a decline of $6 billion from the
previous year. The decrease might have been even steeper, but for important
and needed increases in defense purchasing by the government. Most of the $6
billion drop reflects difficulties faced by the civil aviation and space
sectors of the industry.

The consequences of allowing our aerospace industrial base to continue on
this decline are serious. There is a great deal at stake. Few know that the
U.S. aerospace industry is a leading net exporter in the nation posting a $28
billion trade surplus in 2003. According to a recent study, aerospace
products directly and indirectly generated nearly $1 trillion in economic
activity, $310 billion in earnings and 11 million jobs in 2000. Since 2000,
funding for research and development has increased significantly in the
defense sector but little has been done to invest in civil aviation.

As participants in the long and rich history of aviation and space, we
have invested too much as a nation to allow aerospace to go the same route as
shipbuilding, steel and other U.S. manufacturing industries. The U.S.
aerospace industry not only provides thousands of high paying jobs, but is
truly a national asset that is closely tied to our national and economic
security and status as a global leader.

We must begin to encourage aerospace innovation at the national, state and
local level. In this coming election year, AIA will ask candidates for the
presidency to commit to greater investments in research and development for
aeronautics, to develop a modern air traffic control system, and to adopt
policies that allow U.S. companies an equal opportunity to compete in the
international marketplace. Together, as a nation, we need to ensure that the
second century of aerospace is as innovative and vibrant as the century that
the Wright Brothers spawned in 1903.

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