The European aeronautics industry develops and manufactures civil and military aircrafts, helicopters, drones, aero-engines and other systems and equipment. It also includes companies that provide support services, such as maintenance and training. The civil branch of the industry constitutes the backbone of the European aerospace and defence ecosystem. It represents 50% of its annual turnover, generating high-skilled jobs and innovation.
Civil aeronautics is one of the most successful EU’s high-tech sectors. European industry is world leader in the production of civil aircraft, including helicopters, aircraft engines, parts and components. It provides 405000 jobs, generates €130 billion revenues and plays a leading role in exports, amounting to €109 billion (in 2019). However, with aircraft production rates cut by one third, the entire aeronautics supply chain has been strongly impacted by the severe drop in air travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The competitiveness of civil aeronautics industry strongly depends on its capacity to innovate in order to deliver ever safer and greener products. Industry spends a sizeable share of its revenues on research and development (R&D), which is reflected in an increasing number of patent applications. R&D expenditure from both industry and governments was estimated at the level of €8bn in 2019.
Although the large aeronautical enterprises are located in a few Member States (in particular in France, Germany, Italy and Spain) the industry is characterised by an extended supply chain and a fabric of dynamic small- and medium- sized enterprises throughout the EU, some of them world leaders in their domain.
What the Commission is doing
The European Commission implements a number of policy actions, to address key issues that impact the aeronautics industry, including those listed below.
The Commission promotes the sustainable competitiveness of European aeronautics industries through several initiatives.
Over the recent years, particular focus has been placed on emerging sectors such as unmanned aircraft (also known as drones).
Read more on unmanned aircraft
The Commission intends also to support industry efforts to mitigate aviation's carbon footprint. Based on the Destination 2050 roadmap, the European aeronautics industry together with other European actors of the aviation sector has recently taken the strong commitment to ensure that air transport in Europe meets Europe 2050 climate’s objectives. This includes the development of zero-emission aircraft based on novel propulsion technologies. Such environmentally sustainable aircraft have huge market potential and may strongly contribute to industry’s future competitiveness in all market segments. In order to federate the efforts required to prepare the aviation market to these new configurations of aircraft the Commission is considering the launch of an Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation.
European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020
Report on focus group formed by the Research Commissioner (2001) for a debate on how the European dimension can generate more efficient and effective research in the sector.
STAR 21 Report
The Strategic Aerospace Review for the 21st Century.
Response to the STAR 21 report
Commission communication (COM 2003/600) of October 2003: "A coherent Framework for Aerospace: a response to the STAR 21 report".
Europe's Vision for Aviation.
Competitiveness Study (2009)
A summary analysis on the manufacturing of aerospace equipment is provided by Eurostat
The aircraft market is global. The Commission works to keep markets and trade open through different instruments.
After formal authorisation of the Council and European Parliament, the Commission negotiates agreements at the WTO on behalf of the EU and intervene in dispute settlements. This has been, in particular, the case in the long lasting dispute between US and EU on Large Civil Aircraft (DS317, DS316 and DS353). Read more
The EU also develops specific trade policies with all its partners. At the EU-US Summit of 2021, progress was made towards resolving the Airbus-Boeing WTO dispute, by creating a Cooperative Framework for Large Civil Aircraft, and suspending related US and EU tariffs for five years. Read more
Investment in research, development and innovation (RDI) is vital for the competitiveness of the EU aeronautics industry. The Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) is the roadmap developed by the European industry through the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) providing a guide to future public and private RDI programmes. The Commission also supports the European RDI effort in aeronautics through Horizon Europe, in particular under Cluster Climate, Energy and Mobility and two joint technology initiatives, Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking and the SESAR Join Undertaking. Read more
Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU is taking action to reduce aviation emissions in Europe and working with the international community to develop measures with global reach. Read more
The common EU aviation policy aims to make Europe the safest air space in the world. In order to fully exploit the economic potential of the sector, the European Commission develops policy initiatives on several key issues: safety, single market, Single European Sky, External Aviation policy, etc. Read more