Swiss Aircraft and Aerospace Industry

Written by Markus R. Bodmer

Photo: Pilatus Group
Photo: Pilatus Group
Solar Impulse, the successful long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project is the latest example of Swiss aircraft and aerospace technology.

Oscar Schwenk, Chairman of the Pilatus Group.
Oscar Schwenk, Chairman of the Pilatus Group.
The goals of Solar Impulse were to make the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power. Looking at the industry as a whole, there are various notable examples.

Occupying Niches
Developing, building and selling aircraft to customers around the world, Pilatus’ products range from the legendary Pilatus Porter PC-6 to the best-selling single-engine turboprop, the training system of the future and the state-of-the-art business jet. Oscar Schwenk, Chairman of the Pilatus Group, explains: “Evidently we deliver very high quality. However, only being better is not enough – we have to offer something really new. Already in the past we have developed new models. The PC-12, a well-established product equally in use for business purposes, was followed by the PC-21. The latter became a great success, to the extent that it was built under licence in 700 copies for the US Air Force and Navy. Our newest aircraft the PC-24, the world’s first ever business jet capable of being operated from short unprepared runways, was sold from scratch, keeping the production line busy for years.”
The Pilatus Group includes subsidiaries in the USA and Australia as well as a joint venture company in China. Seventy percent of all PC-12s which come off the production line in Switzerland are finished to customer specifications in the USA. The American subsidiary is also responsible for PC-12 marketing, sales and servicing activities in the Americas. Pilatus aircraft are operated by private and institutional customers alike. Many armed forces rely on Pilatus products for the training of their pilots, while the Flying Doctors in Australia and various airport services around the globe use Pilatus aircraft too. As one of the largest employers in Central Switzerland the company provides training for over 110 apprentices in 11 different professions. In a highly competitive market, Pilatus’ success sets the benchmark to build even better aircraft. Schwenk concludes: “Companies that keep changing their orientation do not know what strategy really means. One has to believe in a set of goals and implement them. We have chosen to be the number one in our segment, not just a bit better.”
RUAG Aviation, another Swiss aircraft and aerospace company, is an internationally leading supplier, support provider and integrator of systems and components for civil and military aviation. The company’s core competencies include: maintenance, repair and overhaul services, upgrades as well as development, manufacturing and integration of subsystems on aircraft and helicopters. It is also the manufacturer of the Dornier 228, a versatile aircraft for special missions as well as passenger and cargo operations. RUAG Aviation offers a broad spectrum of technical services, product development and testing procedures.

The Discreet Business of VIP
Basel, better known for its life science industry, also boasts an aviation cluster. Based at the EuroAirport, both AMAC and Jet Aviation are leaders in the world offering narrow and wide-body VIP completion and maintenance for the corporate and private aviation market. While AMAC is the largest privately owned facility, Jet Aviation is part of the General Dynamics conglomerate offering corresponding services in the USA. With their long-term industry engagement, deep industry roots, extensive experience and strong international network, they collaborate to exceed the expectations of clients, airworthiness authorities and original equipment manufacturers.
In this discreet and highly specialised business, top trained professionals are engaged in crafting customised interiors by processing only the best materials. The cost for a whole completion can exceed the price of an empty, non-outfitted airplane. Apart from the aircraft completion, the companies also offer maintenance services certified for a variety of aircraft types – true to Swiss standards of engineering excellence combined with superior safety, value and comfort.

Publication date: 03 November, 2016