Aircraft manufacturing – perhaps alongside nuclear power generation and the oil sector – is one of the most technically complex and strategically important of any nation’s industrial capabilities. Until recently the main centres of aircraft manufacturing were centred in the USA, Europe and Russia. But in the last few decades new globally important aerospace clusters have emerged in Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Montreal.
The clusters have brought together organisations not simply capable of assembling aircraft structures but designing and integrating millions of complex parts and sub-systems into a single programme. To support this effort, sophisticated regulatory authorities, educational establishments and support organisations for training and maintenance also need to grow alongside the core manufacturing activity.
In the last few years Montréal has developed to be an aviation centre of global significance. With 98% of Québec’s aerospace activity concentrated in Greater Montréal, the city is now one of world’s leading aerospace centres, along with Seattle and Toulouse and has the second-largest density of aerospace jobs in the world. Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada. Bell Helicopter, Textron Canada and CAE all have major manufacturing and research centres there. It is also home to the headquarters of international organizations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI), the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Montréal is the home to 215 aerospace companies and employs more than 43,500 workers. Sales products from the companies currently total $12 billion of which 80% come from exports. Around 70% of total spending on research and development performed in Canada is centred on Montréal; the city is host to the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (CRIAQ), seven universities active in aerospace research, and more than 10 renowned public and semi-public research centres, including the Canadian Space Agency and the Manufacturing Technology Centre of the National Research Council of Canada’s Institute for Aerospace Research.
The investment in aerospace from Canadian companies and investors from abroad has resulted in a number of significant global achievements. In 2013, France’s Safran group financed a large-scale 3D composite laboratory for the aerospace industry at Montréal Polytechnique, making it one of the first universities in the world to have such a facility. Thanks to investments from Canada’s CAE around 85% of the world’s commercial flight simulators are designed Montréal. Every three seconds, a Bombardier aircraft, designed and built in the city, takes off or lands somewhere in the world. Over the last few years Pratt & Whitney Canada has produced a world record of more than 70 new engine models.
Montréal is now a global, not just national or regional, centre of scientific and technical aerospace excellence.