Ryanair blamed as trade surplus in aerospace slides

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The Independent Online

The UK aerospace industry's trade surplus with the rest of the world shrank by a third last year, largely because of the huge volume of Boeing aircraft being brought into the country by the low-cost airline Ryanair.

Figures released by the Society of British Aerospace Companies show that the industry's trade surplus declined from £3.34bn in 2004 to £2.25bn last year, despite a surge in orders and exports. A spokesman said this appeared to be mainly attributable to imports of Boeing aircraft.

Ryanair is midway through a $17bn (£9bn) order with the US aircraft manufacturer for 250 new 737-800 jets and last year alone took delivery of a further 27 aircraft with a value of $2bn at list prices. This year it expects to bring a further 29 jets into the fleet. Although the airline is Dublin-based, its biggest single hub is Stansted, which accounts for about 40 per cent of total passengers.

The sharp decline in the surplus was the only blot on what the SBAC said otherwise was a "phenomenal" year for the industry. A further 10,000 jobs were created during the year, taking direct employment to a little more than 124,000, while there was a 25 per cent rise in sales to £22.7bn and a 29 per cent increase in exports to £15.2bn.

Chris Geoghegan, SBAC president and chief operating officer of BAE Systems, said the sector's continued growth demonstrated its resilience and its importance to the UK economy.

According to the SBAC survey, productivity increased last year by 15 per cent - three times its long-term trend level - while investment in research and development grew by 31 per cent to £2.7bn. The average salary across the industry is £33,000 - some £8,000 more than in manufacturing as a whole.