Supply Chain Sustainability Proves Key for Future Aircraft Markets

 In Perspectives

Stakeholders from across the aerospace landscape gathered last week for NASA’s Sustainable Aerospace Supply Chain & Manufacturing Workshop to identify critical supply chain requirements for future aircraft programs.

As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) move closer to regulating unmanned, supersonic, and/or electric-powered aircraft, there is growing acknowledgement that current supply chains and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) ecosystems are ill-prepared to support new high-volume, low-cost manufacturing and sustainment activities that the market will require.

Critical innovations for future aircraft—including high-strength composite structures, high energy density batteries, and autonomous flight controls—are beginning to make their way onto early prototype aircraft, but not always with an eye toward how these technologies will safely and affordably scale to meet demand. Furthermore, expanding and training the workforce to build, operate, and maintain next-gen aircraft will be a significant undertaking. 

Harnessing the right innovation, experience, and, of course, funding for a certifiable prototype is the obvious hurdle for any aspiring supplier. However, meaningful and sustainable industry participation depends on careful upfront consideration for future supply chain scalability; robust, reliable, and innovative supplier and MRO networks will provide differentiation just as significant as the aircraft itself.

NASA’s commitment to fostering early collaboration among corporations, government, and investor groups is a critical first step to help drive continued industry-wide competitiveness.

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