On Fire Up North: Ontario, Canada's Aerospace Sector is Bigger Than You Realize

8:50 AM

Sumitomo's new $50 million global aero
division head office in Mississauga
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

As a resident of the "Lower 48" Unites States, I probably spend less time than I should thinking about our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada. It's because Canada quietly operates under the radar, never doing anything too obvious or so sinister that it catches the eye of the mainstream media.

Nothing against Canada, no, in fact, my four trips over the border have all been fantastic. Great scenery, nice people, awesome wildlife, and back in the day, a very favorable exchange rate. Toronto is a hip, cool and wonderful city, Whistler has some of the best skiing you can find, and my trip to hike deep into Alberta's northern Rockies to photograph wildlife is on my personal "Top 5" all-time favorite vacations.

But recently, Airplanista was contacted by Ontario, Canada's Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment with a friendly reminder to take a fresh look at the huge amount of aerospace business that happens there. Intrigued, I looked deeper, and was admittedly blown away by the amount of airplanes, aircraft engines and various aircraft parts that are manufactured in Ontario.

Before I delved into this research, I made sure I remembered my eighth-grade geography...that Ontario is a "Province" akin to a "state" in the U.S. Within the province, the most populous cities, Toronto, Ottawa, and Mississauga are very active within a very healthy aerospace sector.

According to the Ministry's release, there are substantial reasons why Ontario's aerospace sector is growing:
"Underlying the success of many Ontario suppliers is that they are able to deliver exceptional products at very competitive prices. All these competitive advantages underpin the growth of Ontario’s aerospace industry, which now includes more than 350 firms with combined annual sales of approximately $6.5 billion and employs 22,000 highly-skilled workers. The industry includes top-ranked companies, such as Bombardier, Eurocopter and Honeywell, as well as smaller players with highly specialized technologies and services. Innovation costs are also low. Ontario companies have access to one of the most generous R&D tax incentive programs among industrialized countries. These cost-savings can create substantial, bottom-line benefits for customers. Lower corporate taxes contribute to keeping those costs down. Ontario’s combined (federal-provincial) general corporate income-tax rate is lower than the average of G8 and G20 countries."
CRJ 700/900/1000 nose gear
When you start looking at Ontario's aerospace sector, it really is amazing that to the average GA pilot in the U.S., it sometimes seems "out of sight, out of mind." Here is one impressive tidbit provided by the Ministry to Airplanista that you might be hearing for the first time:
"Did you know that 40 percent of all commercial airliners worldwide depend on landing gear manufactured in Ontario, Canada? The Province's aerospace sector includes many of the top landing-gear manufacturers; Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, UTC Aerospace (formerly Goodrich) and Héroux Devtek. And now, Japanese landing-gear manufacturer Sumitomo is establishing a $50 million global aero division head office in Mississauga."
While some of those names might seem, well, foreign, the Big Dogs up in Ontario are names any aviator is very familiar with. Again, from the Ministry:
"Bombardier has one of its state-of-the-art Canadian facilities in Toronto where the company manufactures its highly successful series of business jets and turboprops, as well as wings for the Learjet 45 XR. Pratt & Whitney Canada, one of the research leaders in Canada’s aero industry, is investing nearly $140 million in its research and manufacturing facility in Mississauga. One of their goals is to develop new electric-engine technologies that will help operators reduce their fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Research and innovation have long been hallmarks of the Ontario aero industry. During the past 75 years, made-in-Ontario innovations with global impacts have included the anti-gravity suit, the de Havilland Beaver (the world’s first successful short take-off and landing airplane) and the world’s first emergency locator device." 
Yes, the deeper you look at this Ontario aerospace industry success story, the sweeter it gets:
"Cambridge, Ontario-based COM DEV International is a world leader in advanced electronic and optical subsystems for satellites. COM DEV technology can be found onboard 80 percent of all commercial communications satellites ever launched. There’s the made-in-Ontario Canadarm, the world’s first remote manipulator for use in space, and Waterloo-based Aeryon Labs, which is in one of the fastest growing segments of the global aerospace market, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones purpose-built for commercial and military purposes. Centra Industries, another Cambridge, Ontario-based company, supplies precision aero-structural components and assemblies for major commercial and military aircraft programs worldwide, including the Boeing 737, 747, 777 and 787, Bombardier regional and business jets, the Airbus 380 and Lockheed Martin F35."
After learning about what is happening up in Ontario, as an aviation journalist, I am intrigued and want to know more. In fact, this story has taught me that as a friend of Canada, we here in the United States probably need to do more homework not only on the aerospace industry up there, but a lot of other things too. I owe that to my Canadian friends like aviation photographer Ken Mist - @Eyeno on Twitter - who is always gracious when I can't resist tossing out the occasional Canuck joke, or make a reference in a Tweet to dog sleds, Mounties or Labatt's Blue being too cold...as if ANY beer up there could ever reach room temperature (see?).

Writing this piece, I learned something, and I hope you did too. And I vow to find my way to Ontario, to tour some of these factories, R & D labs, and of course, the home of a good portion of this planet's airliner landing gear.

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