Deep in the heart of Europe, lays the historical region of Moravia, together with Bohemia one of the constituent parts of the Czech Republic. Moravia may not come up to your mind first when you think about the European aerospace industry, yet, this is a region has a long industrial tradition that has found in aviation one of its most promising areas of specialization.
While Moravia is nowhere near rivaling Toulouse or Hamburg, the nearly thirty aerospace companies that form its local aero cluster, the Moravian Aerospace Cluster, have quite a few things going for it.
“Our biggest advantage is complexity and flexibility. All our skills are concentrated in a relatively small area. That means we are able to react really quickly and effectively to solving complex requirements and supplying complex components. Also we are able to provide special processes and technologies (like heat treatment, surface treatment, composites, etc) and testing capabilities, without need to send the part across the Europe” explains Petr Tomášek, the executive manager of the Moravian Aero Cluster ”our cluster is, therefore, a great one-stop-shop and middleman for OEMs and Tier 1 companies. We can provide them with initial screening for potential suppliers and also establish for them consortia for complex assemblies”.
For example, the Moravian Aerospace Cluster boasts about the fact that it is one of few aircraft producing regions in the World able to develop, manufacture, test and certify aircraft completely in its territory.
Did I say manufacture aircraft? Yes. There are two segments of the aircraft manufacturing industry where Moravia shines with its own light. One of them is ultralight aircraft. One in every four aircraft in the ULL category in the World is manufactured locally.
And another major area of specialization, that gets the Moravian cluster a foot in the larger commercial aircraft market, is the commuter aircraft category, for up to 20 passengers.
Here the star is, undoubtedly, the Let L-410 aircraft, an admittedly old design that traces its roots back to the 1960s, but one that is still popular in its category, particularly after successive modernizations. LET Aircraft industries currently markets and services two versions of the type, the L-410 UVP-E20, and the L-410NG, that is also manufactured under license in Russia. It is in Russia where the L-410 has found its largest markets, with the model being popular among regional operators that connect isolated and remote communities throughout the expanses of this vast country.
The development of a modernized, larger version of the L-410, a project that was already considered years ago under the designation L-610, is not off the table. This new aircraft would move LET into a bigger league, that of aircraft for up to 90 passengers, but it is no more than an idea at this stage.
In fact, the Czech aerospace industry traditional links with the East, partly a legacy of the communist era but also facilitated by a common Slavic cultural and language heritage, are now being leveraged by the local cluster in its aim to position itself as a sort of industrial nexus between Western and Russian aerospace industries.
The current geopolitical tensions do not help in this enterprise, but Mr.Tomášek remains optimistic “We exhibited at MAKS 2017 and we are collaborating with GE aviation Czech in the organization of the Czech aerospace conference in April in Moscow and we are also preparing the Czech-Russian aerospace forum in May in Kunovice, Moravia. The aim is to showcase the capabilities of the Czech aviation industry and eventually sign up cooperation agreements with Russian companies, such as, for example, the United Engine Corporation”.
But Moravian aerospace companies are not only looking east. This year the Moravian Aero Cluster has been involved in trade missions and in the signing of cooperative agreements with the likes of Airbus, Leonardo, Rolls Royce and Embraer, that have found in Moravia opportunities for strategic procurement.
A small aero cluster with the ambition to fly high.