Coronavirus has brought tragedy to families in every part of the world. While the spread of the virus is now being reduced both here and internationally, the impact of the social and economic crisis it has created on jobs and prosperity is continuing to deepen.
The aviation and aerospace sector have been among the hardest hit industries. As global airlines have been forced to ground their fleets, so demand for aerospace manufacturing has sharply declined and production rates have been cut.
This has put suppliers under pressure, and while Government support including the Job Retention Scheme helped employers to avoid redundancies in the short-term, the reality of declining orders for manufacturers has started to have real consequences for our highly skilled workforce.
Northern Ireland plays a major role in the UK's £34bn aerospace sector.
One-third of the world's aircraft seats are made here, as are the advanced wings for Airbus's innovative A220 aircraft, and high-quality suppliers across Northern Ireland compete successfully in a global market to generate the exports that bring vital jobs and prosperity to local communities. We have already seen major aerospace employers here, including Thompson Aero Seating and now Bombardier, begin the difficult task of talking to their workforces about job losses that have become necessary as a result of this unprecedented crisis.
Since the Government published its recovery strategy on May 11, ADS has been calling for five priority areas to be addressed that will give aerospace manufacturers the support they need to prevent large scale redundancies and even the loss of valued businesses from our industry.
We have seen welcome improvements made to the Job Retention Scheme to offer flexibility to employers to support part-time working in the months ahead, but further action is needed.
Around the world governments are now acting to support airlines, manufacturers and their supply chains.
This week in France the government announced a €15bn support package for aviation aerospace that includes many of the measures needed by our industry here and and across the UK.
It includes a €1.5bn fund for research into green aircraft technology, funding for supply chain modernisation, accelerated defence procurement programmes that will support manufacturers with both civil and defence production, and their suppliers.
The French support package is the latest development that demonstrates the growing international recognition that aerospace and aviation face unique challenges.
In the coming years, as the impact of the pandemic on our everyday lives recedes, aerospace and aviation will return to growth, and the importance of developing and manufacturing new clean aircraft technology to achieve net zero carbon emissions will become more urgent.
Government and industry must work together to make sure we can play a leading role in delivering this green aerospace future, as we are playing a leading role in manufacturing the aircraft of today.
This requires strategic intervention and urgent action to make sure manufacturing and R&D capabilities are not lost and our international competitors take too strong a lead.
Governments here must now urgently put in place the measures we need to make sure our industry is not left behind in the global aerospace race.
Paul Everitt is chief executive of ADS, the UK trade association for the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors